Friday, 31 July 2015

Smuk still brings everyone together

Stephanie Vause slips a shot past traffic at the Smuk Memorial tourney.
    Even after death, Cody Smuk is still the glue guy.
    In order to prove that observation, all one had to do was head out to the Sasktel Centre parking lot on Wednesday evening. A large number of Smuk’s friends and family were taking part in the Cody Smuk Memorial Road Hockey Tournament just over a month after the former heart and soul forward with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Hockey team passed away. Smuk succumbed in his battle with cancer that lasted over a year.
    The 16 teams that took part in the event also contained a healthy showing of people that didn’t know Smuk but wanted to take part in a fundraising effort for Choc ‘la Cure, which raises funds for equipment at the Saskatoon Cancer Centre. The night was one that Smuk would have loved to have been part of in person, but was likely there in spirit.
    People did reminisce about the hard working and gritty skater, and it was obvious everyone came with the focus of having a good time.
    Two little street courts were set up for 3-on-3 action. The games were pretty much pick-up road hockey games, where the purpose was having fun. You might be hard pressed to find a group of adults anywhere that shared so many laughs.
    Games included those that hadn’t played hockey a whole lot, to those that currently play in the CIS and WHL and a handful of players from the professional ranks.
    During the evening, you learned that Dalyce Emmerson, who is a star post player with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies Women’s Basketball team, can knock home goals from in front of the net as easily as she pours in points from the paint. Emmerson was playing on a squad mainly made up of her hoops teammates, who visibly enjoyed a different sporting venture.
    All the players frequently talked about the plays they made or didn’t make and chuckles always followed as they did. A few teams even came up with specially designed shirts to wear during games, which included the Get Smuk’d squad’s t-shirts that contained the Moose Jaw Warriors logo and the #10 Smuk wore for that WHL franchise.
Derek Hulak leads a rush at the Smuk Memorial tourney.
    For a few hours, everyone was a kid again just playing a game out in the street, and most arrived after toiling in a regular work day.
    It seemed amazing to think the tourney came together in about two weeks thanks mainly to the hard work of James Vause whose sister, Stephanie, was engaged to Smuk.
    The games were 16 minutes straight time in length. In the championship contest, team Get Smuk’d, which was made up of some of Smuk’s really good friends and former teammates, came up just short against a squad backstopped by Daniel Wapple, who is the star goalie for the WHL’s Regina Pats. Wapple’s team was believed to have gone by the name Battle Donkey’s.
    Overall, it was a night everyone will remember for fellowship and comradery. Somewhere, Smuk had to be grinning ear-to-ear seeing his pals have a good time.

Once Voice night spectacular

A One Voice fundraiser ticket.
    A week ago, Saskatoon’s TCU Place hosted a charity event that a unique and warm-feeling vibe.
    The One Voice fundraiser took place to raise money for the Neural Health Project at the U of Saskatchewan. The hope of the Neural Health Project is to develop a more complete approach to the treatment of mental illness through a combination of conventional and alternative therapies.
    The event was spearheaded by Mike Babcock, who is the head coach of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, and Dr. DeeDee Maltman, who is the medical director for the Centre of Integrative Medicine at the U of S. Usually any charity event that involves Babcock is expected to be at least good, and this one way exceeded those good expectations in a spectacular way.
    The One Voice fundraiser was a $1,000 a plate event, but the large turnout that came to TCU Place were some of the most down to earth people you would meet anywhere.
    The stars of the night were Michael Landsberg, who hosts TSN’s Off The Record, Clara Hughes, who is a six-time Olympic medalist for Canada, and Kaitlin Hrudey, who is the 22-year-old daughter of former NHL goaltender and current hockey broadcaster Kelly Hrudey. They talked about their battles with mental illness. Landsberg and Hughes both battled depression, and Kaitlin Hrudey has contended with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
    The coolest thing about the night was the fact that mental health and mental illnesses were discussed normally in a big social setting.
    Unfortunately in today’s world that is still not the case. Often in the workplace, mental health is still the elephant in the room.
    As someone who has battled with issues regarding anxiety, the One Voice fundraiser was my best night in Saskatoon since I moved to the Bridge City in late July of last year. I admit I shed my share of tears that night, and I also had that warm and fuzzy feeling when Hughes, Kelly and Kaitlin Hrudey and Babcock, who has guided Canada’s Men’s Hockey team to two Olympic gold medal wins, all asked me how I was doing during various visits over the course of the night.
    It was also amazing to see people rally around Babcock, when he gets behind a cause. For anyone that has battled mental illness, it was inspiring to see someone of Babcock’s stature say what we are doing right now to deal with mental illnesses isn’t working, and we need to find a better way.
    Over $1-million was raised that night for the Neural Health Project.
    You almost wish you could bottle up the positive emotions from that event and carry them with you forever.

Hilltops back in action

The Hilltops celebrate their PFC title victory at SMF Field in 2014.
    On Monday, the venerable Saskatoon Hilltops will begin their quest in earnest for an 18th national title.
    The defending Canadian Junior Football League champions open their main training camp on Monday with practices at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Hilltops clubhouse. Practices will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at the team’s clubhouse leading to a game against the Hilltops alumni at 7 p.m. Thursday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    “The Sarge,” head coach Tom Sargeant is expecting to have a veteran laden team going into the 2015 campaign. While the Hilltops have won four of the last five CJFL titles, they will be challenged by an ever improving Prairie Football Conference in 2015, which should lead to a number of compelling games. Saskatoon always seems to consistently rise to the occasion in big moments, and that will likely continue this season to make for some interesting storylines.
    The Hilltops open the regular season traveling to Calgary to take on the Colts on Aug. 16. Saskatoon’s home opener is slated for Aug. 30 against the Winnipeg Rifles at Saskatoon Minor Football Field with a start time still to be determined.

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