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TeamsFullHub Staff

The first annual Huron-Bruce Celebrity Hockey Classic, a fundraising event for the Easter Seals, took place at The Plex in Port Elgin on Friday, October 30.

The Celebrity Hockey Classic for Easter Seals is a series of hockey tournaments that offers people the opportunity to compete in a celebrity hockey tournament with former NHL greats. The Port Elgin tournament included Bernie Nicholls, Dennis Maruk, Kraig Nienhuis, Ric Nattress, Petr Klima, Tom Fergus, Paul Coffey and Wendel Clark as the NHL alumni competing in the event.

Pat Holland, a volunteer with Easter Seals, said that it's a charity for children with physical disabilities. “We look after the cost of what isn't paid by private insurance or government. We look after the medical equipment, communications equipment, mobility equipment and we also provide education about Easter Seals.”

The Easter Seals Ontario Celebrity Hockey Classics began in 2012 and have taken part in larger communities usually at a four pad arena and with 16 to 20 teams. The Port Elgin venue was the first time the tournament was being held in a small community with a single pad arena and only eight teams.

Charlene Myke, Senior Development Officer at Easter Seals Ontario said that she runs four other tournaments but in larger areas. “We wanted to take them to smaller centres to see if we could have eight teams and how that would work.” She said that Bruce Power President and CEO, Duncan Hawthorne, who is a long-time supporter of the Easter Seals and the current Board of Directors Chair for Easter Seals Ontario, was one of the main reasons why Port Elgin was chosen as the first small community to host one of their celebrity hockey classics. “We used to do an event here three or four years ago, the Spirit of Giving, and we haven't been doing anything since so we decided that it was time to start doing something back here again,” she said.

A private draft party was held at The Queen's Bar & Grill in Port Elgin the evening before the tournament for those involved with each of the eight participating teams: C&H Snow Removal, The Bruce Wings, Meridian Credit Union, The Wismer Housley's, The Hawks, Nicol Insurance Inc., Chester's and The Winterhawks; given the opportunity to draft one of the former NHL players to play on their team. The team who raised the most money had first pick of the draft.

Master of Ceremonies for the evening was retired NHL referee, Ron Hoggarth while former NHL player Kraig Nienhuis was entertaining the teams with some singing and his guitar.

Easter Seal Ambassador Lucas Braun, who has Morquio Syndrome, a rare inherited disease that affects major organ systems in the body impacting physical growth and causing skeletal abnormalities, spoke to Hoggarth about treatments he and his brother Zane, who also has the disease, have had, about how the Easter Seals have helped and also about the specialized camps they run.

Team games were played throughout Friday with a special All Stars versus NHL'ers game being played midday. The All Stars team being made up of the top two fundraisers from each of the eight teams, got the chance to play an extra game against all the former NHL players.

Before the game, Jason Crone, a Paralympic medalist and former Easter Seals child, was presented with an All Stars hockey shirt and a miniature version of the Stanley Cup for being the top individual fundraiser, raising over $7,000.

Lucas and Zane Braun of the Easter Seals and Olivia Little of the Liv-A-Little Foundation dropped the ceremonial puck for All Stars Mark Crone and NHL'ers Wendell Clark.

All the games were non-competitive with the idea being that it wasn't the game scores that counted but the fundraising numbers.

Charlene Myke praised the Saugeen Shores community. “To come here and actually see how generous this community can be was amazing,” she said, adding that the event had been met with nothing but support all the way through. “Every step. There's been no roadblocks. How does that happen? But it happened here.”

She said that the hockey classic will be back in Port Elgin next year. “Were going to grow next year and see how we can make it better because we've got so many people that just want to be part of it.”

Myke added that although money was still being counted from the silent auction, which took place at both the draft party and at the Plex on tournament day and included various signed hockey memorabilia, the approximated total was $82,000.

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