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Maritime NHL’ers coming to Digby next summer

<p>Chris Larsen, organizer of the Maritime NHL’ers for Kids, Jonathan Ettinger, co-president with the Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association, and Rene LeBlanc, manager of the Digby Pines, are looking forward to a successful event in Digby next July.</p>
<p>Chris Larsen, organizer of the Maritime NHL’ers for Kids, Jonathan Ettinger, co-president with the Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association, and Rene LeBlanc, manager of the Digby Pines, are looking forward to a successful event in Digby next July.</p>

What would you ask your favourite NHL hockey star from the Maritimes? It’s a question that 150 Clare-Digby minor hockey players and their parents might want to think over before July, when the Maritime NHL’ers for Kids celebrity golf tournament comes to Digby.

The celebrity golf tournament, gala dinner and silent auction, going into its sixteenth year, is a fundraiser to help young boys and girls afford to play minor hockey.

The golf tournament also involves young players as caddies and volunteers and, something different from many celebrity golf tournaments, organizers do not allow any alcohol on the course during the tournament.

“We are most proud of this unique feature of the event,” said Chris Larsen, the event general manager, to a small reception in Digby at the Fundy Complex on Nov. 27. “We want to make sure the kids feel welcome, the community feels welcome and that the kids get the proper role modeling. Surely to goodness there are six hours in the day where we can not have drinking.”

The young hockey players and their parents are also invited to a question and answer session the Thursday morning before the golf begins.

Renee LeBlanc, manger of the Digby Pines, attended last year’s Q&A in Moncton and says the questions the kids ask are priceless.

The celebrity line up consists of hockey players, coaches and refs, most of whom have played or been involved with NHL hockey. Some of the players are NHL prospects. All, or at least 90 per cent of the celebrities have some connection to the Maritimes.

Larsen said they should have the line up mostly complete by May 1.

He said 80 per cent of the celebrities come back year after year, like Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid.

Last year the big attraction for many of the young players was to meet Nathan MacKinnon.

Larsen said Sidney Crosby hasn’t been to one of their tournaments yet, but they're working on it.

Larsen says, at the end of the golf tournament when he watches the kids walking away smiling and excited by their day with the hockey celebrities, he knows it is all worth it.

“We get emails from the parents and they tell us the stories they hear from their kids,” said Larsen. “These kids go home and tell their parents all about this day, and the parents tell us, this was the best day in my kids life.”

The event travels to a new location in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or PEI every year – the closest it has ever been to Digby was three years ago when it was in Kentville.

Larsen says the tournament has raised over $800,000 and helped 2,200 kids get on the ice.

Organizers split the money raised at the tournament between the KidSport organizations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI and ask that it be earmarked for kids wanting to play hockey.

Organizers also apply every year to the NHL Players Association for $25,000, which they use to buy hockey equipment for the host minor hockey association.

In this case, the Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association (CDMHA).

Jonathan Ettinger, co-president with the CDMHA, says the financial barriers to playing hockey are pretty huge.

He estimates there are another 50 kids in Digby who could be playing hockey if it weren’t for the money.

“It’s extremely expensive,” he says. “We hear kids all the time in the rink say they wish they could play. We let their parents know about KidsSport, and sometimes they let their children play and sometimes they don’t.”

He says registration is approximately $500 for four months of hockey and another $200 to play in a rep league and then there’s travel and accommodations on top of that, not to mention the equipment.

Larsen says they will be looking for volunteers as the planning goes forward.

“Did I mention we’re looking for volunteers?” he repeated a few times.

The 2015 Maritime NHL’ers for Kids golf tournament and auction is planned from July 22 to 23 at the Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa.

jriley@digbycourier.ca

The celebrity golf tournament, gala dinner and silent auction, going into its sixteenth year, is a fundraiser to help young boys and girls afford to play minor hockey.

The golf tournament also involves young players as caddies and volunteers and, something different from many celebrity golf tournaments, organizers do not allow any alcohol on the course during the tournament.

“We are most proud of this unique feature of the event,” said Chris Larsen, the event general manager, to a small reception in Digby at the Fundy Complex on Nov. 27. “We want to make sure the kids feel welcome, the community feels welcome and that the kids get the proper role modeling. Surely to goodness there are six hours in the day where we can not have drinking.”

The young hockey players and their parents are also invited to a question and answer session the Thursday morning before the golf begins.

Renee LeBlanc, manger of the Digby Pines, attended last year’s Q&A in Moncton and says the questions the kids ask are priceless.

The celebrity line up consists of hockey players, coaches and refs, most of whom have played or been involved with NHL hockey. Some of the players are NHL prospects. All, or at least 90 per cent of the celebrities have some connection to the Maritimes.

Larsen said they should have the line up mostly complete by May 1.

He said 80 per cent of the celebrities come back year after year, like Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid.

Last year the big attraction for many of the young players was to meet Nathan MacKinnon.

Larsen said Sidney Crosby hasn’t been to one of their tournaments yet, but they're working on it.

Larsen says, at the end of the golf tournament when he watches the kids walking away smiling and excited by their day with the hockey celebrities, he knows it is all worth it.

“We get emails from the parents and they tell us the stories they hear from their kids,” said Larsen. “These kids go home and tell their parents all about this day, and the parents tell us, this was the best day in my kids life.”

The event travels to a new location in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or PEI every year – the closest it has ever been to Digby was three years ago when it was in Kentville.

Larsen says the tournament has raised over $800,000 and helped 2,200 kids get on the ice.

Organizers split the money raised at the tournament between the KidSport organizations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI and ask that it be earmarked for kids wanting to play hockey.

Organizers also apply every year to the NHL Players Association for $25,000, which they use to buy hockey equipment for the host minor hockey association.

In this case, the Clare-Digby Minor Hockey Association (CDMHA).

Jonathan Ettinger, co-president with the CDMHA, says the financial barriers to playing hockey are pretty huge.

He estimates there are another 50 kids in Digby who could be playing hockey if it weren’t for the money.

“It’s extremely expensive,” he says. “We hear kids all the time in the rink say they wish they could play. We let their parents know about KidsSport, and sometimes they let their children play and sometimes they don’t.”

He says registration is approximately $500 for four months of hockey and another $200 to play in a rep league and then there’s travel and accommodations on top of that, not to mention the equipment.

Larsen says they will be looking for volunteers as the planning goes forward.

“Did I mention we’re looking for volunteers?” he repeated a few times.

The 2015 Maritime NHL’ers for Kids golf tournament and auction is planned from July 22 to 23 at the Digby Pines Golf Resort and Spa.

jriley@digbycourier.ca

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