Sunday, 30 March 2014

Charity Wins!

If you were following my Twitter feed on Friday, it should be no surprise that I was attending the Juno Cup in Winnipeg where a collection of Canadian music stars squared off against a collection of former and current hockey stars! The action last night was fast, fun, and memorable as the hockey stars and music stars put on quite a show for the near-1500 fans in attendance. From incredible passing plays to ridiculous saves made that shouldn't have been made to seeing a former NHL star sing his heart out and win over a pile of new fans, the 2014 Juno Cup was an absolute success here in Winnipeg!

If you're not aware, the Juno Cup is a charity game that helps to raise money for MusiCounts, Canada's music education charity associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). From MusiCounts' website, "MusiCounts' mission is to ensure that children in Canada, regardless of socio-economic circumstances or cultural background, have access to a music program through their school. MusiCounts includes Band Aid musical instrument grants, the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, Scholarships, and other music education initiatives." I'd say they're pretty important when it comes to continuing the development of Canadian musicians across this great land, so I was happy to have been a part of this great night!

The two teams had impressive rosters. I won't link everyone, but there are some pretty impressive names on both teams. The Hockey Greats included head coach Ab McDonald, assistant coach Carey Wilson, former Jet Mike Ford, former Maple Leaf Mike Pelyk, Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Johnston, former Blue Wayne Babych, three-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Keane, former Islander Brad Dalgarno, Olympic gold medalist and CWHL champion Natalie Spooner, former Canadien and two-time Stanley Cup-winner Mark Napier, former Devil Troy Crowder, and former Jet Perry Miller!

The Rockers had a massive lineup, so I just want to highlight a few guys who stood out in their lineup. First off, Jim Cuddy, the man who got this game going in 2004, was back and he looked pretty good on the ice for a music legend. Local radio personality Dave Wheeler of 92 CITI-FM came out with a killer moustache and flow. He could have been mistaken for George Parros as he skated around the ice! Ottawa native Amanda Rheaume was the only member of the fairer sex to suit up for the rockers, and she scored a beauty penalty shot goal!

The lineups for both teams can be found here. The one player for the Hockey Legends that didn't show? Former Jet Thomas Steen. Steen is a city councilor in Winnipeg, so it's not like the guy couldn't make it to the city because of travel problems. Where was he? It would have been great to see the Jets legend back on the ice in his familiar #25. Instead, he was nowhere to be found. Disappointing.

There was a trade before the game as it was announced that the Hockey Legends had traded former NHL netminder Trevor Kidd to the Rockers for netminder and folk artist David Francey! In saying this, Francey took to the ice in these vintage Lange skates that literally looked like they jumped out of the 1980s. Personally, I am very impressed that Francey still uses them as his everyday skates. Look at that fantastic chassis on the blade! BEAUTY!

Trevor Kidd donned the dark jersey of the Rockers, and decided to sport his Carolina Hurricanes-emblazoned gear for this game! He was ridiculously good in between the pipes as well. It seemed as though he made about 70 saves last night, and still had an excellent glove hand to rob a few players - Mike Keane repeatedly, for example. If the current roster of Winnipeg Jets ever needed an emergency call-up, Trevor Kidd looked like he was ready!

As for the game itself, there is absolutely no doubt why both Rebecca Johnston and Natalie Spooner are Canadian Olympians. Along with linemate Brad Dalgarno, they were dangerous every time they stepped on the ice. Spooner and Johnston both recorded a goal and an assist in the first half as they paced the Hockey Legends out to a 6-2 lead, but it was their hands and puck movement that were so electric. Without a doubt, these two ladies should be idols for a lot of young women playing hockey today.

The break at halftime saw the Rockers and Hockey Legends square off in a skills competition, and there was a lot of laughter as both teams tried to one-up each other. However, the highlight of the event was Mr. Jim Cuddy singing his famous lyrics from Blue Rodeo's song Try against hockey legend Troy Crowder.

Cuddy was awesome - he always is - and the crowd roared as he sung to the end. Crowder, being one of hockey's feared pugilists, admitted his nervousness as he took the mic to replicate the song just song by Mr. Cuddy, but Crowder's version was scripted for the event as he changed lyrics to reflect the Rockers' team! And you know, he's a pretty damn good singer! Crowder's version earned him a standing ovation as the fans showed their appreciation for him being a good sport, and I have to say that Crowder shouldn't be nervous at all after belting out his version of Try. Very impressed!

The other thing that Crowder should get credit for is helping a young lady win big. Kira (I hope I spelled that right), a 14 year-old fan attending the game, was picked to be a shooter in the closest-to-the-center-ice-dot contest. She and three other kids had to shoot a puck from the defensive zone face-off dots in an effort to get it closest to center ice on two shots.

Kira, looking nervous, admitted to having never held a hockey stick. Crowder spent about five minutes with Kira showing her how to hold a stick, shoot with it, and generally get the puck moving in the right direction. No word of a lie, Kira's first puck stopped less than a foot from the center ice dot! Call it beginner's luck if you like, but Troy Crowder deserves some major kudos for scoring that young lady a chance to meet a pile of musicians and hockey legends who signed the jersey she won. The screams as each musician approached her only proved how excited she was. Well done, Troy!

After the skills competition ended, the Rockers found themselves trailing 7-6 on the scoreboard, and they needed a push. However, the man at the other end of the ice, Mr. David Francey, summoned the ghost of Jacques Plante as he stonewalled chance after chance that the Rockers had. Francey stoned Devin Cuddy a couple of times, Jim Cuddy a couple of times, and Steve Marriner at least once during a late flurry in the game. Needless to say, those Lange skates worked well!

In the end, the Hockey Legends won the 11th Juno Cup 10-9, but the real winners were the recipients of the grants handed out by MusiCounts and MusiCounts itself. The fans were pretty big winners as well as they got to see a pile of hockey and music legends battle it out on the ice, and were lucky enough to get a mini-concert from Jim Cuddy and Troy Crowder.

Overall, this was an excellent event, and I highly recommend you check out the next Juno Cup in Hamilton in 2015. It's an awesome exhibition of talent on both sides of the ice, and it's really a lot of fun. Not only that, but you're supporting a fantastic charity, and there's never a losing team when charity wins!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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