Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The First Five

It was a special afternoon as people from the hockey world meshed with the media and a great charitable cause, and the two men pictured - Dave and Wayne Babych - were at the forefront of these worlds meeting. Each of these respective worlds played a part in the first press conference for the Winnipeg tournament of the Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament that will happen in the Manitoba capital on December 5 and 6, 2019. There were smiles and laughs seen at the press conference and there was a lot of great information presented as the event officially kicked off this afternoon!

If you caught The Hockey Show a few weeks back, we featured Executive Director Ryan Baillie on the show where were discussed all things related to the Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament happening in Winnipeg as the efforts to get this great initiative off the ground were just starting. Today was the official kick-off where it was announced that not only is the tournament coming to Winnipeg, but the tournament is already sold out when it comes to getting ten teams involved! That's massive news, and it goes to show that Winnipeg's love of the game combined with its charitable beliefs can help a great cause like Hockey Helps The Homeless benefit greatly.

The goal for Winnipeg was set at $100,000 in its first year with the proceeds going to three amazing causes in Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), Red Road Lodge, and Willow Place. The press conference took play at the Resource Assistance for Youth drop-in center, and it's where Wayne Babych was the announced as the first player to commit as one of the professional players for the Winnipeg tournament followed almost immediately by the announcement that his brother, Dave, would be joining him as the second professional committed to playing with the amateur teams.

"I really enjoy this community," Dave Babych, a Winnipeg Jets defenceman for six seasons, told the crowd on-hand. "When Ryan asked me to co-host with Wayne, how do you say no? It was an automatic. I live in North Vancouver and I think I've played in the tournament there for 10 years, and every year, I don't know how it happens, but it just gets better and better, and more money's raised.

"We have the easy part," he continued. "We just show up and play. Of course, we believe in what it's all about. Hopefully, we entertain. We might not entertain on the ice, but in the dressing room and after because some of our skills... we think we're going fast but we know that's not true."

Wayne, a 54-goal scorer with St. Louis who now lives in Winnipeg, echoed his younger brother's message. "I'm so excited to be a part of this. We've had some guys from when I played where they've become homeless. I drive through the city now and I look at people and I've never had an avenue of how I could help. I see people standing and asking for money at the corners. I do what I can. But this gives me an opportunity to help out the way I can.

"Hockey was my life, and having Ryan and his group coming here, I'm so glad to be part of this. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to do everything to get into shape for this."

Among the assembled crowd at the press conference were two other Winnipeg-based players who are excited to join a new amateur team on HHTH Draft Night on December 5 as both Trevor Kidd and Frazer McLaren were announced as the third and fourth players who have committed to playing. It was announced a little later that former Winnipeg Jets forward Laurie Boschman would be returning to the city for the event as well!

Now if there's some question about "star power" - getting that superstar player who is beloved by the entire community - that is being addressed by both HHTH and the player recruitment team. The key for any player to be recruited is to go through the "vetting process" or, as Ryan Baillie describes it, the "do they get it" process. They don't have to be a Wayne Gretzky or a Bobby Orr - admittedly, those two would be awesome to have - as long as the players understand the cause of Hockey Helps The Homeless and why their inclusion at these tournaments makes them special.

For lack of a better term, they are the "eye candy" that helps drive teams to raise more funds to be able to select the player they want on Draft Night. The team that raises the most money is given the opportunity to select first-overall from all the professional players who are playing in the tournament. The second-highest fundraising team gets the second pick, the third-highest fundraising team gets the third pick, and so on. The players, for their part, are the entertainers for the tournament at that point, sharing stories and laughs with the team that selected them while trying to help them perform well at the tournament.

If we circle back to that star-power factor, there are a number of names that are still trying to coordinate their schedules to make their attendance at the Hockey Helps The Homeless tournament in Winnipeg work, so expect announcements in the coming months of additional pros whose names are quite familiar to hockey fans in Winnipeg. As it stands right now, Dave Babych, Wayne Babych, Trevor Kidd, Frazer McLaren, and Laurie Boschman are the first five to commit to the tournament, and I'd be pretty stoked to have any of these guys sitting on the bench as well as telling hockey tales in the locker room.

We're six months away from raising $100,000 or more to help the 1500-or-so homeless people in Winnipeg who sleep outside in the heat, in the rain, in the cold, in the snow, in the wind, and in the darkness every single night. We have ten teams who are raising funds, and I'm sure you likely know someone or a company who wouldn't mind a little advertising in exchange for a donation to this great cause. If you do, check out Hockey Helps The Homeless or email one of the two co-chairs of the Winnipeg event in Viola Bauer and Brenda Bourns.

Every dollar raised at this point is dedicated to Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), Red Road Lodge, and Willow Place, three amazing centers in Winnipeg that are helping men, children, and youths get off the streets in a city where winters are unforgiving and unrelenting in their forecasts. I'm proud of the work these centers are doing, and I'm proud that Hockey Helps The Homeless, Wayne Babych, Dave Babych, Laurie Boschman, Trevor Kidd, and Frazer McLaren are lending their support and expertise in an effort to end homelessness in Winnipeg.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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