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Canucks alumni team up with fans at Hockey for the Homeless fundraiser

Canucks alumni Garth Butcher watches on the bench as his team scores a goal

With the Vancouver Canucks amid a tough playoff series with the Blackhawks of Chicago, local alumni and fans gathered last Friday afternoon to raise awareness for local homeless causes.

Hockey for the Homeless is a volunteer-driven event that started  in Toronto and has  moved west to Calgary and now to Vancouver. It gives fans the chance to play alongside ex-NHLers and alumni.

Canucks alumni Gary Valk, Garth Butcher, Moe Lemay and others lent their services and at UBC’s Thunderbird Arena, a day’s worth of fundraising took place.

Participants  paid $300 each to play. They formed teams that spent most of the morning and afternoon battling in the 10-team tournament.

Many were ready to suit up for the challenge of playing against players they grew up watching. Valk, of TV’s Sportsnet Pacific, looked spry and willing to show off the skills that earned him 100 NHL goals.

Other alumni were  more difficult to spot. Although not a household name, Moe Lemay played 5 plus seasons with the Canucks in the early 80s and has the distinction of playing with the dynasty Edmonton Oilers during the 86-87 NHL season. 

Probably the most notable alumni to don his old hockey pants was Garth Butcher.

Playing close to a decade with the Canucks, Butcher still holds the number two spot in all time penalty minutes with the club.

His son, Matt Butcher is also a draft pick of the Canucks having been picked in the 5th round in the 2005 draft.

There were goals aplenty throughout the day, and nice saves all around, and also the occasional yell of “No slapshots!”  

As the games rolled on, some players began to wear down. One team’s goalie went down with less than 3 minutes to play in a game with what looked to be a knee injury. Out of the blue, his teammate, a forward wearing a #29 Odjick jersey not to be confused with Gino, stepped in with a goalie stick and the game continued and ended with high fives exchanged between both teams.

In its second year here, Hockey for the Homeless hopes to bring added attention to the city’s growing homeless communities. Since its establishment in 1996, the tournament has raised over $2,000,000 with proceeds used to fund support groups and to provide life kits for individuals living on the street. With a strong core of volunteers and eager participants, the tournament will most likely see plenty more games in the future.     

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