On Monday night, September 30th – the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL Season, I had the privilege to attend to the NHL Alumni Gala Dinner in Toronto at the Marriott Hotel. NHL Superstars, league representatives, and friendly faces gathered together to celebrate honourable figures for the game of hockey.
Each year the NHL Alumni Association recognizes stars from the past and present, and friends of our hockey family, for their outstanding contribution to hockey, both on and off the ice. This years award recipients include: Pat Quinn, who recieved the Man of the Year Award – Russ Conway, who was awarded the Keith McCreary 7th Man Award – and a special tribute to Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arredondo – both survivors and hero’s of the Boston Marathon incident – who were recognized with the Ace Bailey Award of Courage.
My “Hockey’s Masked Men” display had the fortunate placement in the main foyer that lead all of the hockey legends and guests to the Grand Ballroom for the nights events. It was ‘something else’ to have hockey players who actually played with many of the goalies I’ve painted looking at my paintings and talking to me about them.
Some of the highlights were speaking with the brother of Greg Harrison – who created much of the masks I’ve painted (such as the Rutherford mask)… saying ‘congratulations’ to Pat Quinn on receiving his Man of the Year Award and listening to his admirable speech during the dinner…. having been asked whether “everything was under control” by tough man Ted Lindsay… having the chance to say ‘thanks’ in appreciation of the level of greatness that goalie-legend Johnny Bower brought to the game… speaking with Pat Stapleton about artwork ‘and’ his time as a Milk-Man in my hometown during the off-seasons earlier in his career… and talking to Mike Krushelnyski about his involvement on Battle with the Blades.
A few of the faces I was able to pick out of the crowds were: Gary Bettman (commissioner of the NHL), Don Fehr (Head of Players Union), Dennis Hull, Pavel Bure (who flew from Moscow on behalf of Pat Quinn), Brad Park, Frank Mahovlich, Mark Napier, Troy Crowder, Rick Kehoe, Red Kelly, Craig Neinhuis, Phil Myre, and Glenn Healy.
I also got to meet Carlos Arredondo at different moments prior to and during the event. He came over to look at my artwork and talk to me about it. He is truly one of the nicest persons I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. He, of course, will forever be remembered for his heroic acts of saving the life of Jeff Bauman after the tragic events of the Boston Marathon. Both of them are inspirations to countless people.
But there was more to the night then just my art display – the Grand Ballroom was set up in spectacular fashion – with a jersey hung over every seat, and other gifts presented to each guest. Along the middle of the ballroom were a row of tables featuring the jersey’s of all teams – past and present. At the center of attention was a great stage setting with the banners of all players that have recieved the “Man of the Year” award during past ceremonies. And video screens played video for the mass of spectators to see better throughout the room. It was interesting to see a room full of hockey jerseys being signed by so many hockey stars and names all at once. Why not take advantage of such an occasion where so many people have gathered together all at once… and to make something good come of it… such as signing these jersey’s for donations, charity, and other offerings.
The meal was one of the richest dinners I’ve ever had. I’m not a big food guy, but I’m sure that I would have been impressed if I had a better understanding of what was on the course for the night. It was delicious. During the meal we heard Liona Boyd sing to classical guitar. I was able to greet her afterwards. Sitting next to me at my table was Peter Ing, who spoke about getting back behind the pads and also his new passion – designing hockey training aids: http://www.xhockeyproducts.ca/ (I highly encourage you to check out his website)!
And finally, I would like to say thank you to Wendy McCreary, the Director of NHLA and the evenings events, for allowing me to come and display my artwork. I had a great time and the entire ceremony was beautifully set up. As well, thank you to the NHL Alumni Family. Everyone was down to earth and very welcoming. It’s nice to know that the organization isn’t just there to gather players together – but is there to help benefit them – which was brought across directly during Pat Quinn’s speech. Well put.