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Jun. 20, 2016

By David Brien, Hockey Canada

For the first time in 46 years, hockey fans did not have a Canadian-based team to cheer for during the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

But that did not prevent hockey enthusiasts north of the 49th parallel from celebrating another Canadian contingent.

After a record-setting performance at the 2015 IIHF World Championship, Canada’s National Men’s Team followed up with a second consecutive gold medal at the worlds this spring.

On June 20 and 21, the victory will once again be celebrated as part of the Hockey Canada Foundation Gala & Golf in Halifax, N.S., where the team will receive championship rings.

Monday’s gala at the Cunard Centre also features another cause for celebration. The Order of Hockey in Canada welcomes four new members who have made outstanding contributions to the game of hockey and helped it grow across the country.

David Branch, president of the Canadian Hockey League, and Bob Nicholson, former president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada, will be honoured during the gala as influential executives, while Geraldine Heaney and Mario Lemieux will be feted for their on-ice exploits and international successes.

“When you think back to the very first Order of Hockey in Canada gala ceremony, which included the very current topic of Gordie Howe, I think it speaks volumes to the calibre of Canadians who are being recognized with this very distinguished honour,” says Al Coates, Hockey Canada’s senior advisor of special projects.

“This year’s inductees are no different. They are great names and have all made a really significant contribution to the game and helped the growth of the sport that we cherish so much in this country.”

On June 21, the star-studded gala attendees will replace their dress shoes with golf shoes as they tee-off for the golf portion of the event, to be held at the Glen Arbour Golf and Country Club, and The Links at Brunello.

While both the gala and golf tournament may be casual and fun, their main objectives are not to be taken lightly. In fact, the annual event is the Hockey Canada Foundation’s most important fundraiser.

Since 2009, the Hockey Canada Foundation and its partners have raised just under $3 million. This year’s edition will once again leave an important legacy and continue to help grow the game at the grassroots level, not only in the Nova Scotian capital but across Canada.

After taking place in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, the Gala & Golf is being held for the first time in a non-NHL market, and all signs point to that being a good thing.

“The end result is that we’ll see the largest attendance in the history of this event in Halifax,” says Coates. “We have already surpassed the previous record in ticket sales. It’s a real feather in the cap of the local organizing committee and we’re looking forward to a really great event.”

Of the funds raised during the two-day event, half will go to the Hockey Canada Foundation and its grassroots development programs, while the other half will be split equally among Hockey Nova Scotia, the Sidney Crosby Foundation and the Long Pond Arena Society.

All three organizations contribute to the growth of hockey across the Maritime province, but the latter is also leading a project to build a new recreational facility in the area.

The new arena will be able to accommodate both women’s hockey and sledge hockey, two facets of the game that have significantly grown in Nova Scotia in recent years.

“The new facility will be built with those two aspects in mind so that it doesn’t need to be retrofitted some years down the road,” says Coates. “They got ahead of it in the early stages of the planning to make sure that it’s conducive to those two facets of the sport.”

So whether the Hockey Canada Foundation Gala & Golf is seen as a celebration for this year’s gold medallists, a way to recognize important contributors to the game of hockey or a fundraising event, it has a direct impact on the growth of the game both locally and nationally.

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