Friday, 12 September 2008

Amadeus Steen Foundation Charity Benefit

I spoke a little about the Amadeus Steen Foundation in a previous article regarding the work that they are doing to help children in Winnipeg and Toronto. The Amadeus Steen Foundation recently held events in both cities, and I was lucky enough to obtain tickets. As part of his prize for winning the Hockey Blog In Canada Playoff Pool, the second ticket for the event went to Justin St. Louis, and we attended the charity benefit for the foundation that took place at the Tijuana Yacht Club in Winnipeg. Let's just say that this is an event not to be missed, and a very good cause to support if you happen to be in the neighbourhood of either city for next year's events.

I'll start with some of the prizes that were available to be won via silent bid. The list of stuff that was available is impressive.

There were framed pictures of various players, with autographs, that included Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jonathan Toews, Alex Steen, Thomas Steen, Denis Savard, Alexander Ovechkin, Brian Rolston, and Teemu Selanne.

There were autographed pucks from Ovechkin, Toews, Gretzky, and Nikolai Khabibulin.

There were autographed, framed hockey cards from Toews, Paul Kariya, and Alex Steen.

There were autographed jerseys from Jonathan Cheechoo, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek, Martin Havlat, Jaromir Jagr, Roberto Luongo, Markus Naslund, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Ryan Smyth, Eric Staal, Henrik Zetterberg, and Evgeni Malkin.

In some of the odds and ends of the silent bid items, there was an autographed CD and bra from Olivia Newton John. I'm not kidding. And the amazing part is that it got a ton of bids by the end of the night. I believe it finally sold for just over $400. Another item was a mouthguard that had a retail value of just under $1600. The PurePower mouthguard is designed to reduce concussions by changing the alignment of the jaw, and each one is specially-designed for the athlete that is wearing it. I recall that it fetched $125 by the end of the night. Really, though, if you're not a pro football or hockey player, do you really need one of these?

However, there was also a live auction for some big ticket items. Jerseys included an autographed Anaheim Ducks' Teemu Selanne jersey, an autographed New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist jersey, an autographed Detroit Red Wings' Gordie Howe jersey, an autographed Chicago Blackhawks' Dennis Hull jersey, and a Team Canada jersey from the most recent World Championships autographed by the entire team. There was a hockey stick autographed by the entire Toronto Maple Leafs team. There were two Vespa Scooters. There was a 50" HD plasma television. There were two autographed guitars - one from Keith Urban, and the other from Brad Paisley and Rodney Atkins.

And the highlight of the live auction? Three former Winnipeg Jets auctioned off old-style Winnipeg Jets jerseys, complete with their names on the backs. The three men were Jets legends Laurie Boschman, Dale Hawerchuk, and Bobby Hull. All three autographed their jersey with a personal message for the winner, and it was great seeing this sort of personal touch added to the evening.

So what was all this money going towards? The Amadeus Steen Foundation is proud to announce that they are working with the Children's Hospital Foundation in Winnipeg to design an entire room dedicated to helping diagnose Type 1 diabetes in infants. Through the Children's Hospital Foundation, we got to hear the story of a youngster named Bretton Tyler who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of two. Now 12 years old, Bretton visits the Diabetes Education Resource at Children’s Hospital, led by Dr. Heather Dean, at least once every four months for tests and consultations.

It was the efforts of this unit at the Children's Hospital in Winnipeg that saved Bretton's life. The Diabetes Education Resource at Children’s Hospital has become a leader in the treatment of diabetes through The Maestro Project, and continues to establish itself as one of the top treatment facilities in North America. Along with the efforts of the Amadeus Steen Foundation and generous people such as yourself, the Children's Hospital Foundation can help kids as young as Bretton live full and healthy lives by providing top-notch treatment and diagnosis at an early age.

The Amadeus Steen Foundation raised a big chunk of money that will go towards helping the Children's Hospital in Winnipeg continue their immeasurable and unequaled treatment of kids. Thanks to the NHLPA, the players who attended the Charity Benefit, and people like you who supported the Amadeus Steen Foundation, these efforts will continue for the foreseeable future.

So who made it to the event? I know you're asking what NHL legends and players were there to take part in the festivities, so I'll run these guys down in a quick list before doing a more in-depth look at each of the attending players.

The men introduced at the start of the evening were literally a "who's who" of NHL stars. In no particular order, here are your attendees for the evening: Bobby Hull, Dennis Hull, Dale Hawerchuk, Laurie Boschman, Wayne Babych, Jim Benzelock, Derek Meech, Ray Neufeld, Russ Romaniuk, Nigel Dawes, Jordy Douglas, Mike Ford, Ab McDonald, Neil Wilkinson, Travis Zajac, and Randy Gilhen. And, of course, the two men who made it all happen - Alex Steen and Thomas Steen.

Now, in saying this, the event organizers from the Amadeus Steen Foundation wanted the group of players to head towards an area where people can meet them and talk to them, but they basically scrambled once the TV cameras were turned off and went in their own directions. However, Justin and I tried to get pictures with as many of them as we could, as well as ask some questions. The problem? 1000 other people at the sold-out event wanted to do the same.

I know this will make Justin's wife a little jealous, but we ran into Russ Romaniuk as he was making his way off the stage area towards the media area. Justin's wife is a huge Romaniuk fan, and he wanted me to make mention of that. Russ played for the Jets for parts of five seasons before he was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers. After spending a number of years in the minor leagues and European leagues, Russ retired. His time away from the game didn't last long as he's now a commentator for the Manitoba Moose radio broadcasts. Russ really had some great things to say about the Amadeus Steen Foundation's efforts, and was really generous with his time at this event.

The first player we really got a chance to speak to was Alex Steen, seen with Playoff Pool winner Justin St. Louis. Alex was probably the most "under-the-radar" guy there, despite the event being for the Amadeus Steen Foundation. He stopped to talk to as many people as he could, and he was literally all over the place the entire night. I can't say enough good things about Alex Steen and his efforts on this night. He chatted openly about what they hoped to accomplish, and he was honest and candid. Very cool guy.

The next player we met is a Winnipeg Jets legend, and still one of the most famous people and most revered players to have ever worn a Winnipeg Jets jersey in the history of the franchise in Dale Hawerchuk. Mr. Hawerchuk was chatting with everyone who stopped by, and he really had some great things to say about everyone who turned out and the event. The best part is that he was extremely generous with his time for the event, and really appeared to be having a great time with everyone who wanted to meet him. Great guy, and we were honoured to have met him.

After meeting Mr. Hawerchuk, things seemed to go easier for us in meeting some of the other guys. We met retired NHLer Randy Gilhen at the bar. Mr. Gilhen played for the Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins (where he won a Stanley Cup in 1990-91), Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Florida Panthers before returning to Winnipeg where he played for the Jets in their last two seasons before they moved to Phoenix. After that, Mr. Gilhen played for the AHL's Manitoba Moose where he served as captain. Mr. Gilhen didn't turn anyone away all night as he shook hands, signed autographs, and smiled for pictures. Needless to say, Mr. Gilhen appeared to enjoy the entire evening, and really did all he could for anyone who asked.

We also met the other gentleman responsible for the evening in Thomas Steen. Mr. Steen played 14 seasons with the Jets before he retired. I cannot say enough good things about Mr. Steen's efforts on the night. He literally shook each and every person's hand in the building that night, personally thanking everyone for attending. If you want the definition of "class act", Mr. Steen was it.

After we got a chance to mingle with Mr. Steen for a few moments, we were lucky enough to meet Wayne Babych. Mr. Babych spent seven seasons in the NHL, most notably with St. Louis where he lit the lamp 54 times in 1980-81. I have never seen a happier guy asked for his picture or autograph than Wayne Babych. He looked like he was enjoying every second of this event. The smile didn't leave his face all night.

For a guy who was one of the legends at the event, Laurie Boschman appeared to avoid the limelight in exchange for a quiet evening. Alongside his gorgeous wife, Mr. Boschman seemed to enjoy absorbing the festivities of the evening more than wanting to be part of them. However, he was more than accommodating to each and every person that asked to meet him, and signed every autograph that came his way. The former Maple Leaf, Oiler, Jet, Devil, and Senator looked like he had barely aged from when he broke into the NHL in 1979-80 - a testament to the great shape he has kept himself in.

We had barely made our way through the line for dinner when we bumped shoulders with current NHL star Nigel Dawes. Mr. Dawes is currently playing with the New York Rangers. For a guy whose star is on the rise in the NHL, he was down-to-earth, and totally cool with meeting two guys like Justin and myself. His dad works with the Amadeus Steen Foundation, and he said that he was "proud to be at such a great event that benefits so many people". I agree, Nigel, and good on you and your dad for doing such wonderful work.

Of course, this event was headlined by one of the funniest men in all of sports in Dennis Hull. Dennis played 14 seasons in the NHL: 13 of them with the Blackhawks, and one with the Red Wings. He was overshadowed by his brother while in Chicago, but Dennis still recorded a 40-goal season and three 30-goal seasons. However, in recent years, he's been known for his comedy. As emcee of this event, he was hilarious, and certainly brought the house down a few times with his jokes. Always smiling, Dennis Hull was the show-stopper on this night, and will certainly be remembered by this writer for his bigger-than-life aura that made this event work so well.

Without saying, the one man that will always be remembered as a Winnipeg Jet is Bobby Hull. From his million dollar contract as a Jet in the WHA to his "120 mile-per-hour slapshot" in the NHL with Chicago, Bobby Hull is a once-in-a-lifetime personality that has to be met.

Here's how our encounter with Mr. Hull went: we were talking to Mr. Hull about hockey when a woman cut in front of Justin and began to drape herself all over the hockey legend. Mr. Hull's facial expression was one of disbelief as he glanced at us, but he kept the suave personality going as she beckoned him to come to her table. Mr. Hull said he'd be over later, and motioned for the lady to head back to her table so he could know where she'd be. She obliged, and Mr. Hull watched her weave her way through the crowd. As soon as she was out of earshot, he turned back to us and said, "Did you boys f*%kin' hear that? Who does she think she is? Does she know who I am? What the f*%k?"

At this point both Justin and I burst into laughter, and Bobby Hull's trademarked smile came back across his face. After that, we discussed a little more hockey, he ordered another drink, and we wished him well, and for a safe trip home. He did the same to us, and he took to chatting up two young ladies as we walked away.

There is nothing better than watching Bobby Hull work the room. Absolutely fantastic!

All in all, Wednesday, August 27, 2008 will be a night of memories that I'll hold onto forever. Jim Benzelock, who played for the WHA's Chicago Cougars, Alberta Oilers, and Quebec Nordiques, tried to recruit me for his golf foursome that night for the next day's golf tournament. Had I not had to work, I'd have accepted in a heartbeat. Mr. Benzelock was hilarious, and I'd love to hear more stories about the WHA from him. If anyone reading this knows how to get in touch with him, please have him email me at cdnuniguy-at-gmail-dot-com. I'd love to talk more hockey with him. Ironically, he doesn't look much different from that picture I linked. Maybe just a little more white hair.

In any case, the Amadeus Steen Foundation Charity Benefit was a pretty solid success, in my humble opinion. While there have been no details about how much money they have raised, my guess is that is will be a pretty decent figure. And that's good for all the kids at the Children's Hospital in Winnipeg. Congratulations to everyone at the Amadeus Steen Foundation for putting on a phenomenal event! I can't wait to buy tickets for the 2009 Charity Benefit!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Texas Youth for Political Awareness said...

Wow, that sounds pretty awesome. It's great that charities can find fun ways to raise a ton of money!

P.S. Romaniuk is awesome! I've got his rookie card.

Bethany said...

I'm glad that you had such a good time. I am still uber jealous. ;)