The “NHL Alumni-Celebrity Play for the Gray Hockey Challenge” was conceived rather quickly and could only have happened with the help and support of the people and groups described below. It is not often that something like this comes together so well and so quickly. The story is a good one.
On October 21st, 2012, Dan Moriarty was asked by actor Matthew Perry to play the part of a hockey player in his NBC TV show “Go On”. The two had met back in the ‘80’s when Matt’s dad, John Bennett Perry had been part of a large group of hockey-playing celebrities. Hockey was a hit in Hollywood after the USA hockey team had won gold in 1980 and Gretzky came to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. By the late ‘80’s and into the early 90’s there we a large number of stars who played a pretty good game of hockey and who were filling roster spots on men’s league teams across Southern California. The list of celebrity hockey players was impressive and included Kurt Russell, Michael Keaton, Michael J. Fox, Adam Baldwin, Matthew Frewer, Luke Perry, Cuba Gooding, David E. Kelly, Dave Coulier, Richard Dean Anderson, Alan Thicke and more. Many of these players not only competed in the leagues but toured as the Celebrity All-Stars Team playing charity games and raising tens of thousands of dollars for non-profit organizations across the country.
On his way to the shoot that day, Dan called Brad Michaelson, an old buddy of his in Scottsdale, AZ and an occasional celebrity team sub from the early days, just to shoot the breeze. During that conversation they talked about the possibility of getting some of the old group together, to see if they might want to play a game. They thought Scottsdale in the winter would be a decent-enough incentive. They called in Robin Wyss, Executive Assistant of the Vancouver Canucks Alumni Association and an old-hand at producing these events for the NHL Alumni. Ironically, Wyss had already discussed the possibility of an Alumni event in Phoenix in winter, 2013 with former NHL players Reed Larson, Greg Adams, Wayne McBean, and Neal Broten. With this much energy already spent, they decided to give it a go in Arizona. It started out as the NHL Alumni Celebrity Hockey Challenge.
THE NHL ALUMNI, THE COYOTE’S ALUMNI and THE COYOTE’S AMATEUR HOCKEY ASSOCIATION
First stop in putting the game together was the Coyote’s Ice Den in Scottsdale, AZ. Michael O’Hearn, President of Coyote’s Ice LLC thought it was a good idea that might be made even better if the group would consider possibly playing against the Coyote’s Alumni (insert link) in their annual effort to help raise awareness and funds for the Coyote’s Amateur Hockey Association. They put in a quick call to Wayne McBean, head of the Coyote’s Alumni and Mike DeAngelis, head of the Coyote’s Amateur Hockey Association and both of the guys thought a good, fast game against some NHL Alums and some of Hollywood’s hockey-playing celebs would not only be fun for the players but for the large and loyal group of local and visiting Phoenix hockey fans. It would offer the groups an even bigger chance to showcase their organization and would give CAHA coaches, the backbone of the organization and good hockey players in their own rite, a chance to skate against a new line-up of NHL and Celebrity greats.
The date was chosen, the Ice Den donated the location and the game was locked. The teams would face-off on February 15th, 2013 at 7:15 at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, AZ.
BANNER-GOOD SAMARITAN MEDICAL CENTER
On November 1st, 2012, Brad Michaelson’s Runway 21 Studios was premiering an ATV/OHV safety film called “One Short Ride” it had produced for The AZ Game & Fish Department. The film was funded by a grant that was secured by the Southwest Alliance for Recreational Safety. Sonja Smith, one of the founding members of SWA4RS, was at the premier and during a conversation with Michaelson, the two discovered that not only was she a member of SWA4RS but she was the Injury Prevention Coordinator of Trauma Services at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. It also was obvious that her passion was concussion awareness, education and prevention. Her duties with Banner included community outreach and ironically, Banner’s new Concussion Center was scheduled to open ten days after the game.
Concussions were the fourth biggest sports story across the Associated Press in 2012. Young athletes, including the hockey players, coaches and adults that would be reached through the event were some of the most critical groups in Smith’s effort. This game would be a great way to get her word out and possibly to generate funds for her effort and the new Concussion Center. In spite of its size and scope, many of Banner’s programs derive funds from private support through donations, contributions and fund-raising. This event was a perfect fit and their participation would benefit everyone.
“THE NHL ALUMNI CELEBRITY PLAY FOR THE GRAY HOCKEY CHALLENGE”
The Coyote’s Alumni, the Coyote’s Amateur Hockey Association, the ice Den, former NHL players, the celebrities who are donating their time, the sponsors that are supporting the game and the organizers all believe that this is a perfect alliance at the best of times. CAHA would continue to bring the amazing sport of hockey to kids who would not otherwise have the opportunity to play. Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center can deliver a message of concussion awareness and safety to a group of extraordinary young athletes and adults at a critical time. In the end, we all get better, smarter and safer young athletes who play the greatest sport on the planet.
And we get to watch a pretty entertaining game too! Our thanks to all of those who have made this happen. Game on!!