Dean Francks and his good friend, former Vernon Lakers scoring star David Oliver, sat down early in the 21st century and discussed organizing an eight-hour hockey game as a fundraiser.
Out of that discussion came the Fitness For Families Hockey Challenge, which raises funds for programs at Francks’ place of employment, North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society (NOYFSS).
The latest version of the fundraiser is set for Saturday at the Okanagan Training Rink on 27th Avenue.
“Ollie and I dreamed up the concept of the eight-hour hockey game, eight games within the game, and each team captained by an NHL player,” said Francks, director of business and fund development for NOYFSS. “We did it two years, then I took a hiatus. This will be the fourth time we’ve done it.”
All funds from the event go to NOYFSS programs.
Oliver, now director of player development for the NHL’s Colorado Avalance, will be one of 16 former or current NHL stars taking part, playing alongside kids or adults who want to take part in the challenge.
Oliver played in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars.
“It’s outstanding,” said Oliver, who participated in the first Challenge and who will skate alongside his two boys, Caden, six, and Layten, five, this Saturday.
“You get to see everybody in the community come out. It’s a huge event on and off the ice. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and when you get to go out and play with them, you get a lot of smiles.”
Among the other former or current NHL stars confirmed include Vancouver Canucks great Kirk McLean, Stanley Cup winner Brent Gilchrist, Vernon Minor Hockey coach Dean McAmmond, Vernon Minor Hockey grad Jerred Smithson, former Vernon Viper Aaron Volpatti of the Washington Capitals and Team Canada World Junior gold medal captain Curtis Lazar of the Senators, who will have his gold medal on hand for pictures.
The NHL stars, besides playing in games with kids and adults, will take on the Vernon Fire Rescue Services hockey squad in a celebrity all-star game at 12:30 p.m.
Action on the ice begins at 10 a.m.
Players in the hockey challenge range from five-years-old to 65.
“We still have room for more players,” said Francks. “Those that play will get a jersey, puck, water bottle and a signed photo of their NHL player if they reach a certain level of pledges. We encourage participants to pick up pledge sheets and help us raise money.”
Off the ice Saturday, it’s a free family fun day at the OTR parking lot as kids’ games and activities will be set up, and there will be an autograph table with a chance to get the signature of the NHL players.
The night before the hockey challenge, there is a social at the Vernon Golf and Country Club starting at 5:30 p.m. which is open to the NHL players and corporate partners. Limited tickets, at $60 each which includes dinner, live and silent auctions and live music, are available to the public.
The Fitness for Families Hockey Challenge is made possible by corporate sponsors such as Vernon’s Davidson Pringle Lawyers.
“This is a great community cause, helping families and youth in Vernon, it’s a no-brainer for us,” said Ian Hawes, a partner with Davidson Pringle. “Dean and his team do great work and we’re happy to be involved.”
Other corporate sponsors include Sun-FM, Tolko, Wayside, Heartwood Homes Ltd., Kal Tire, OTR, Brand Alliance, Silver Rock Land Corp., O’Callaghan Bilodeau Chartered Accountants, Rona, Greater Vernon Minor Hockey, Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services and PRT.
To take part in the hockey challenge, call Francks at 250-545-3572, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.