By BRENT LONG
The day after the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a second consecutive Stanley Cup with a victory over the Nashville Predators, Dave McKenna’s team repeated as champions at the 17th Annual Canada Life Wendel Clark Celebrity Classic in support of the MLSE Foundation.
While it’s not quite the same as hoisting the most treasured sports trophy on earth, McKenna and his teammates John Cook, Andrew Bedford and Rick Janco did receive powerful TaylorMade M2 drivers as they conquered Glencairn Golf Club in an exciting six-team shoot out at the end of a steamy, hot day in Milton.
“I watched the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs and even though I’m really a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, it was pretty cool to watch Pittsburgh win back-to-back championships and see Sid hoist the cup again,” added McKenna, who was playing with three new playing partners this year. “I’d have to say it’s a little tougher to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, but winning the Wendel Clark Celebrity Classic again is pretty special too.”
Dale Hawerchuk, Al Iafrate, Dave Ellett, Brad May, Tom Fergus, Gerry Cheevers, Peter Ing, Kevin Maguire, Kirk Muller, Mike Palmateer, Peter Mahovlich, Bill Smith and Mike Gartner as they shared some stories and played golf in the fun-filled event that has raised more than $350,000 over the years for various charities.
“It’s a terrific way to spend a day and meet a lot of different people who love talking about hockey and playing some fun golf on a beautiful course,” says Mahovlich, who plays in four-five charity events each year. “It’s always fun to reconnect with some of the players who you haven’t seen for a while and at the end of the day it all comes down to helping someone who needs a helping hand.”
McKenna’s squad did get some help from a couple of NHLers as Cheevers, a Hockey Hall of Fame member and Mahovlich, the second overall NHL draft pick back in 1965, teed it up for several holes with the group. “Peter is hilarious and Gerry has some great stories once you get him going,” added McKenna, a die-hard Wendel Clark fan, who is hopeful that the Leafs are headed in the right direction with the likes of; Mitch Marner, Josh Leivo and Connor Brown, who played along side Kody Clark in the event. “Last year we also won drivers, and I was using the one I won last year to win this year, so hopefully we can keep it going and go for the three-peat in 2018.”
“This is such a terrific event that I look forward to,” says former Leaf, Dave Ellett who now lives in Phoenix, AZ. “I love coming back to Toronto. I loved it when I played here and it’s great to be back to see some of the players and meet other hockey fans who are passionate about the game.” If guests are going to ask Ellett a question, it’s usually goes back to the 1992-1993 season when the Leafs made it to the conference final and what it was like back then to be part of that team. “Now there is a new sense of optimism in Toronto, you can feel it when you talk to their fans. They are excited for the future and they should be. The building blocks are in place and that is not only good for Toronto, but it’s good for the entire league, to have a competitive team in one of the most important markets.”
Over 40 teams, plus 14 former NHLers battled it out with the six top teams making the shootout from 100 yards. Other teams advancing to the shoot out included; Brad Moore, Andy Devlin, Phil Jack and Jeff Spalding at 13-under par; Carlo Cudini, Antonio Cudini, Jamie DeGiorgio and Alex Smyth at 12-under par; John Gal, Stewart Chantler, Luis Salazar and Gary Rollerson at 12-under apr; Art Wilson, Derrick Tuyl, Bryan Faldowski and Dun Rust at 12-under par and Kerin Sparks, Geoff Busch, Michael Fabbri and Rick Burns squeezed into the final spot at 11-under par.
Two players from each team teed it up in the shoot out and it was McKenna’s line mate, Andrew Bedford, who put his shot to within 10 feet of the pin and then they had to watch as the five other teams took their best whack.
“The final thought that went through my head before I made the swing was, “stick it tight” and that’s what happened,” said Bedford who had never played in a golf shootout before. “I really wasn’t too worried what happened after that. It was an awesome day, win or lose.”
Phil Marsillo, Senior Vice-President Distribution at Canada Life, the title sponsor for the charity classic for the past three years was delighted by the turnout, the support of the NHLers, the excitement of the shootout and the outstanding venue. “We are proud to be associated with Wendel and the good work that he’s doing in our community,” Marsillo says.
Clark and ClubLink introduced the MLSE Foundation as the tournament’s new charity partner for 2017.
MLSE Foundation believes all kids should have access to sport and the opportunity to both develop and pursue lasting dreams on the playing field.
With the support of MLSE’s teams, the Foundation supports the refurbishment of local athletic facilities and funds charities that support kids through sports and recreational programs.
As part of its generous commitment to MLSE Foundation, MLSE directly funds the administration and staffing costs associated with Foundation operations. This contribution, along with an annual financial donation, makes is possible for MLSE Foundation to achieve its mission to improve kids lives, through sport.
Since launching in 2010, MLSE Foundation has invested more than $30 million into our community. Last season, it impacted the lives of more than 125,000 kids and more will be helped because of the annual Canada Life Wendel Clark Celebrity Classic.
“We have been doing this tournament for 17 years now, two more years than I played in the NHL,” Clark says. “It’s pretty amazing that we are still going, so I would just like to thank everyone who comes out each year to support the charities that we work with. I can’t wait to do it again in 2018.”