NHL free agent Jerred Smithson talks with one of his teammates during the Fitness for Families Hockey Challenge fundraiser for the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society Saturday at Okanagan Training Rink.

NHL free agent Jerred Smithson talks with one of his teammates during the Fitness for Families Hockey Challenge fundraiser for the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society Saturday at Okanagan Training Rink.

NHL stars help families score support

North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society’s Fitness For Families Hockey Challenge was a success

Kirk McLean is a fan favourite on and off the hockey ice.

Arguably one of the greatest goalies in Vancouver Canucks history, McLean – who helped lead the Canucks to within one win of the 1994 Stanley Cup championship – stole the show at the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society’s Fitness For Families Hockey Challenge at the Okanagan Training Rink.

McLean was one of a number of current and former NHL players who captained a team for a day-long game Saturday. He played forward and helped the NHL celebrities, er, “edge” the Vernon Fire Rescue Services squad in an all-star game.

“I think it was 13-1 for the NHL guys when they switched goalies,” laughed NOYFSS’ Dean Francks, one of the organizers of the weekend.

But it was at the Friday night social where McLean took over to help the event raise a total of $33,700 for NOYFSS programs.

Vernon’s Lyle Doucet, of the Electric Paper Company, known locally for his creative caricatures, drew up a print of McLean which, during the evening’s auction – conducted by longtime auctioneer Wayne Penner – was up to around $900.

“That’s when McLean grabbed the mic,” smiled Francks.

“He threw in two Canucks game tickets, then added watching the game with him in the Canucks alumni suite, which brought it to around $2,500. He then threw in a chance to take part in the morning skate and included a tour of the dressing room.”

Vernon’s Rob Ellis ended up with the package for about $3,100.

McLean also joined entertainer Robert Bricker for a rousing rendition of Journey’s smash hit Don’t Stop Believin’.

Among the other pros taking part in the Saturday hockey event were Leland Irving, Jerred Smithson, Dean McAmmond, David Oliver, Brent Gilchrist and current Ottawa Senators star Curtis Lazar, who was captain of Team Canada’s gold-medal-winning World Junior team.

“Lazar was a huge hit,” said Francks. “The lineup at his autograph table was about 20 deep for an hour.”

Beside the Friday night social and the Saturday on-ice activities, action was also happening in the OTR parking lot.

“It was packed all day outside,” said NOYFSS’ Jan Shumay. “I’m not sure what the exact numbers are but we sold more than 500 hot dogs. The weather was perfect and everybody had a lot of fun.”

Added Francks: “We’re very pleased with the entire event.”

The Friday night social was moved to the Vernon Golf and Country Club and included a dinner.

“We know the meal was a big hit so next year we’ll be looking at moving things up to the next level,” said Shumay of the Fitness for Families Hockey Challenge.

McLean told organizers he’d love to come back and vows to bring a couple of Canucks alumni with him.

For the first time in the event’s history, the national anthem was sung before the all-star game. It was delivered beautifully by Vernon singing sensation Olivia Penalva.

The event also handed out a Memory of Miles Award in honour of late Vernon Minor Hockey player Miles Wohlford, who died last summer in a boating accident, one month after playing in the Fitness for Families event.

The award was presented to the child who raised the most pledges for the event, Charlie Swarz of Vernon.

Wohlford’s parents, Todd Wohlford and Randi Lund, dropped the ceremonial puck prior to the all-star game.