Fret not, NHL fans: you can still watch some of your favourite hockey players take to the ice this month.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa has assembled a group of fellow teammates and other “celebrities” to take on the UBC Thunderbirds men’s hockey team on October 17 at Thunderbird Arena. In addition to giving hockey fans their fix of high quality hockey during the lockout, the event is being used to raise money for charity.
“It was something I thought about in the summer if the lockout did go through,” said Bieksa after a midday skate at Thunderbird Arena. “And if we were locked out for an extended period of time, I knew we’d have some time on our hands, and raising money for charity for me was a primary objective of this time off.
“With the help of some good people and some good friends, so far we’ve put together most of the details, and I’m looking forward to Saturday for ticket sales.”
Along with Bieksa, a good number of top Canucks players will be attendance. As of now there are nine confirmed attendees, including Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins, Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra, Max Lapierre and Cory Schneider.
“When I brought this up to them,… I just threw this out there to see if they were interested in it, and there wasn’t one ounce of resistance; everybody was on board 100 per cent,” said Bieksa. “They said they’d do whatever I asked of them and that they’d be there for sure. If anything, I have too many guys right now that want to play.”
The team is also leaving a few spots open for a few other guys who are waiting to be confirmed. However, the spots won’t necessarily be filled by Canucks or even NHL players.
“There’s been some interest from other guys from around the league that have contacted me,” said the defenceman. “It’s not just the Canucks; it’s guys that are skating out here [during practice],… [there's] guys that are good friends of mine that are going to play, but there’s also guys from other teams, some siblings, some brother-in-laws; it’s not just going to be NHL-calibre players.”
A few of the guest stars will include Bieksa’s brother, and his father Al will be reffing the contest.
Despite the disparity in talent level, Bieksa’s Buddies, as the team is called, won’t be taking their T-Bird opponents lightly.
“These guys can’t be underestimated,” said Bieksa. “We’ve practiced with them, we’ve been training in the gym with them for the last couple weeks, so we know what they’re all about. We know they work hard and have played junior hockey for the most part, so they’re good players. We’re going to try and not get embarrassed out there and we’re going to play hard.”
As expected, the Thunderbirds themselves are also pumped up to play in this game.
“The boys are all excited,” said third-year T-Bird defenceman Mike McGurk. “We heard about it a couple of weeks ago … so it’s been on the boys’ mind since, and now that it’s official, everyone is ready to play.”
Despite the amount of top-notch talent on the ice and the fact that the NHL players will be itching to play an actual game, Bieksa wants to make sure that the game remains about the fans.
“We’re hoping to bring the intensity down a little bit and make it a little bit more fun and entertaining,” he said.
He also has faith that this game will fill up Thunderbird Arena.
“I think we can [sell it out]. That’s the goal,” Bieksa said. “Obviously the primary objective is to raise money for three charities that are important to me, but it’s also to give the fans a little bit of entertainment, something they’re missing right now, and it’s at a good price.”
Tickets go on sale on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster. All tickets cost $20, and the proceeds from the game will be donated to the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, Canucks Autism Network and Canucks Family Education Centre.
Doors open for the game at 6 p.m. on Oct. 17 at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre; the puck drops at 7 p.m.
—With files from Andrew Bates