It was a night of giving and receiving, for both the players and the fans. There may have been a not-so-jumbo jumbotron and only 5000 seats, but Kevin Bieksa’s charity hockey game was a successfully sold out event. Vancouver’s hockey-desperate fans flooded into the University of British Columbia’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Arena on Wednesday night to watch Bieksa’s Buddies compete against UBC’s varsity men’s hockey team.
Bieksa’s team was comprised of NHLers Dan Hamhuis, Tanner Glass, Rod Pelley, Jim Vandermeer, Chris Higgins, Manny Maholtra, Cory Schneider, Aaron Volpatti, Maxim Lapierre and the Sedins as well as several friends and family members. Bieksa’s brother Marty played (and scored a goal) as well as Maholtra’s brother-in-law Martin Nash. They skated out onto the ice to the sound of U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name, the same song used at Rogers Arena for the Canucks.
Injured Canucks Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler and Jason Garrison joined with LA King Willie Mitchell, BC Lion Paul McCallum and singer Michael Bublé to form the Bieksa’s Buddies coaching squad. There were many other familiar faces at the game as well, such as sportscaster Dan Murphy, who conducted interviews during the intermissions. Singing group The Tenors sang the national anthem.
It was a laid-back evening – especially evident when the announcer claimed that a UBC player was receiving “two minutes for looking so good” – with some good hockey. The game was played at the same pace as an NHL All-Star game, no hits included, with a final score of 8-7 for Bieksa’s Buddies. The NHLers even proved their ability to comeback when they were down 7-3 during the second period. There was fancy stickhandling and some mesmerizing passing, especially between the Sedins, but the most important aspect of the evening was the Canucks’ evident dedication towards Vancouver’s charities and community.
Ticket sales for the game made $100,000 for Canucks charities such as Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, The Canucks Autism Network and The Canucks Family Education Centre. Things got even better when Bieksa announced before the game that Michael Bublé had agreed to match the amount of money made. The cheque presented to representatives from the charities had a grand total of $200,000.
“On behalf of Bieksa’s Buddies I’d like to extend our deepest thanks for sharing your evening with us at UBC. We love hockey and giving back our community and your support makes this possible,” said Bieksa.
It was more than just a charity game though. Even though the jumbotron was unable to show dancing fans on its tiny screen, fans continued to dance. They booed when Tanner Glass was sent to the penalty box and cheered loudly when Willie Mitchell came out to give away his jersey. There was a 10 minute warm up and a post-game shootout, as well as t-shirt giveaways during intermissions. To finish it all off, the players took the jerseys off their backs and gave them to lucky kids selected from the audience.
This event was also great publicity for the UBC Thunderbirds. They received loud cheers when they stepped on the ice and when they scored and are sure to have gained some more supporters over the course of the evening. For many of these hockey players, university hockey will be the highest level of hockey they ever play, so playing a game against NHLers must have been a beneficial and memorable experience for all of them.
The fans received a healthy dosage of hockey to help them make it through the next few weeks of the lockout. As for the players, they were given proof that Vancouver is in this with them. They were given the cheers and support that haven’t been heard in a hockey arena in Vancouver for months. And despite the circumstances that provided the time for this game to go on, it felt good.