While the event didn’t feature a Bobby Orr or a Wayne Gretzky, this year’s version of the Celebrity Golf Tournament meet and greet left long-time fans of the sport literally foaming at the mouth with all of the past stars who came to give their time to the event.
Local players like Dan Hamhuis and Joe Watson worked the crowd to give hearty hellos and long missing hugs to long ago friends, while players we all know made new pals amongst those in attendance at Boston Pizza last Thursday.
Athletes from other sports and even television personalities were on hand to share an evening of fun and find out more about this little place that they had heard about.
The event was sponsored by a large group of local businesses with the proceeds to go to the purchase of a CT scanner for the local hospital. Anyone who has ever had to spend a day travelling out of town to use one of these devices for medical scanning will know how welcome such a machine will be.
For many of the participants, this was their first trip to Smithers and they were literally ranting about why they now understood what the locals who invited them had been talking about.
It was easily summed up in curler Jim Cotter’s remark: “This is God’s country.”
Some of the celebrities where treated to helicopters rides around the area and again, they began to understand what the locals had been talking about.
NHL star and Olympic gold medalist Dan Hamhuis, who grew up here, said that many youngsters don’t always appreciate the beauty of the area and the availability of programs which will help them achieve their goals. With his trade to the Dallas Stars, Hamhuis finds if more difficult to come back to Smithers every summer but has made a commitment to be at the tournament every other year.
“Part of sport is giving back to the community and helping with those who made it all possible for you. I’ve always found the sport fun and I really enjoy this event,” he said.
Danny Briere holds records for his playoff performances with the Philadelphia Flyers and is now working in their system helping develop a team for the ECHL.
“It’s really a privilege to be here. The area is beautiful and the people are great,” he said.
Briere said that he had never been to Smithers before but Joe Watson, who works in the same office as Briere, invited him.
“I’m amazed at how many guys are up here. It’s definitely worth it to come up here,” he explained.
The main event of the evening was the auction for the celebrities who would become part of the various teams for the golf sessions. In addition, several former players had donated signed jerseys.
Television host Steve Darling was the master of ceremonies for the event and he was joined by Kaitlyn Herbst, last year’s winner of the event, and Yvonne Challe. Both Herbst and Challe work in the TV news field.
As MC, Darling kept things moving along and entertaining. The player auctions were introduced with anecdotes and descriptions that made each one more than just a hand out for funding.
Occasionally Steve Carlson, one of the original Hanson brothers from the hit hockey movie Slapshot, would interview a player and each one was a delight. All were in the mood to make the evening an event to remember.
The weekend continued with a number of golf events which occurred following the press deadline.