A normally private and fun hockey game quickly went viral and drew a lot of support from the public.
Canadian country music star, and central Alberta native, Gord Bamford hosted what’s being called the first ever Christmas Charity Classic on Dec. 21 at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex. The game featured Team Bamford versus Team Halbert — Bamford’s business partner — both filled with a few former professional hockey players and personal friends.
However, Bamford didn’t expect that his normally private and usually casual hockey game would grow into the event that it did.
“I started having these games a few years back just as a way to get together with the guys,” Bamford said, noting the games stopped for a couple years when the family lived in Nashville.
“I decided that since we came back…that I would get back into having the game again. Since I’ve been to the (Ponoka) Stampede a lot and I loved it here, I thought this would be a good fit.”
And initially, Bamford thought the event would be just the normal low key fun game, but things changed once word got out about the contest on social media. It was announced and transformed into a charity event with donations for the Ponoka Food Bank being taken by the Lacoka bantam girls hockey squad.
“Typically, this was not that big, but it’s great that people here in Ponoka want to come out and that they really supported the food bank with all of the donations,” Bamford stated.
“The support shown was great and the guys had some good fun out there playing. However, there is no doubt we were out there to win,” he joked.
Along with Bamford, there were a few other notable celebrities including recent former NHL players Curtis Glencross and Colin Fraser, as well as successful NHLers Duane and Brian Sutter, who acted as coaches for the two teams.
“Being part of this is very special. Gord helps us out with our many charities and many other things, so anytime we can help him out it’s what we try to do,” said Brian, who played 12 years with St. Louis Blues before onto being the head coach for four separate NHL clubs — St. Louis, Boston, Calgary and Chicago. He has also coached the former Bentley Generals and is now with the Innisfail Eagles.
As for Glencross, who retired at the end of the 2014-15 season after nine years in the NHL, being able to play in this event is more about being with friends.
“Me and Gord are great friends and we support each other’s charity causes plus this seems to be one of the only times I am able to get out to be with the guys,” Glencross said, who works in sales in Calgary while also working for several local charities.
“And this is what I miss the most about being away from the game, being able to hang out in the team atmosphere so this is such a great thing to be a part of.”
Meanwhile, Colin Fraser — who played four seasons with the Red Deer Rebels before going onto an eight year NHL career and getting his name on the Stanley Cup twice — was impressed with the support this ‘fun beer league game’ got from the community.
“When I was asked if I wanted to play, I didn’t know it would turn into what happened here,” said Fraser.
“This was a really good skate and definitely fun to play. I love being a part of this and the crowd certainly made this more fun. I think Gord will have to maybe look at making this an annual thing.”
For Bamford’s part, due to the support shown by the community, he is certainly considering it.
Just to note, Bamford scored once in the second frame as his squad hung on to win by a goal while several boxes filled with food along with a number of cash donations were collected for the Ponoka Food Bank.
A final total raised was not immediately available.