By the time the puck dropped for the second annual Sea to Sky Hockey Challenge on Sunday, Feb. 27, it was standing room only at Meadow Park Sports Centre arena, with approximately 500 tickets sold.
Fans were treated to three great periods of hockey, with former and current NHL stars teaming up with sports figures and celebrities to raise money for the PacifcSportÕs PodiumFund. The PodiumFund provides funding to CanadaÕs top provincial, national and international prospects to help with training, housing, travel and food costs.
In total, the events in Vancouver and Whistler raised approximately $50,000 for the PodiumFund, or more than double the $20,000 that the inaugural Sea to Sky Hockey Challenge raised in 2004.
According to Challenge organizer Will Davis of Destination Funny Entertainment, the event will definitely be back next year.
"ItÕs a labour of love for us, the comedy communityÕs way of being part of the community in 2010," said Davis, who also works as a stand up comic. "We donÕt want to be sitting on a couch during the Olympics moaning, Ôwhy did we finish 37 th Õ, so this is what we did. This is our way of giving back to the athletes."
The success of the event hinged on the participation of people like former Canucks GM Brian Burke, who got behind the project from the beginning. With the Canucks involvement it was easy to get former NHL stars to sign on, which in turn made it easier to get celebrities and amateur athletes to volunteer. It also made it easier to find sponsors like Re/Max, CTV, Jack FM and Fairmont hotels.
Next year Davis is hoping to build on that success by offering more entertainment in Whistler, as well as by lowering ticket prices. This year tickets were $25, up from $20.10 last season.
"From the beginning our goal was to ensure that this event would always be affordable, and IÕd still like to see the ticket prices come down," said Davis. "We think weÕd get an even bigger turnout, which would allow everyone out there to support Olympic athletes. It was never about creating an event for the high mucky-mucks Ð there are already a lot of those, and we hope theyÕll still come to our event and bid on the silent auction items. But this really is all about ordinary people coming together to watch some great hockey and support their athletes."
As for the games in Vancouver and Whistler, Davis says the feedback has been incredible. The Whistler event was special for several reasons Ð not only did the game go to an overtime shoot-out, it also gave fans a chance to see skaters like future hall-of-famer Igor Larionov and the Vancouver CanucksÕ Mattias Ohlund up close.