Hockey heroes help Edmonton's homeless

More than a dozen former Edmonton Oilers stars laced up their skates Friday to play in a pro-am tournament that's expected to raise $100,000 for the city's homeless.

Oilers alumni skate in pro-am tournament to raise money for the poor

Former Oilers' heroes share their thoughts raising funds for Hockey Helps the Homeless 1:22

Jason Stanton used to collect Glenn Anderson hockey cards as a youngster growing up in Edmonton. So playing alongside the Oilers great was a dream come true Friday.

"lt's pretty awesome," Stanton smiled from the same bench as the former Stanley Cup champion.

Stanton's Running Room team was one of 13 on the ice at the Terwillegar Community Rec Centre in the fourth annual Hockey Helps the Homeless tournament.

All 200 players involved each raised a minimum of $500 for the chance to share the ice with former NHL players.

The companies they represent each contribute an additional $2,500.

"We thought it was a pretty good opportunity to do something fun and also something really worthy," Stanton said.

Glenn Anderson was one of 15 former Edmonton Oilers to skate in the Hockey Helps the Homeless tournament Friday. (Sam Martin/CBC News)

Fifteen former Oilers stars laced up their skates for the tournament as well as five former Calgary Flames players and three members of Canada's women's national team.

"Closing in on 60 [years old] is not the easiest thing to do and still play this game," joked Anderson who said he continues to push himself both to have fun and to help those in tough times.

"It's amazing to see the funds go to work and see what it does and what it brings to the people's faces that are benefiting from it. It's just fantastic," he said.

The Toronto-based charity Hockey Helps the Homeless expects to raise about $100,000 from this year's Edmonton event.

That's on top of the $300,000 the tournament has already generated in the city since 2013.

"Hockey is seen as an affluent sport and so it's the perfect mix for folks that have the means to be able to use their favourite sport to give back to the community," said executive director of the organization, Ryan Baillie.

Jason Stanton said playing alongside Oilers great Glenn Anderson was awesome but there was no hope he would be able to keep up with him on the ice. (Sam Martin/CBC)

The proceeds will be divided between three community groups that operate resource centres for the poor in Edmonton.

The Jasper Place Wellness Centre, which is a drop-in on Stony Plain Road, will be one of the recipients.

The Neighbour Centre on the south side and the Mosaic Centre in the city's northeast will also benefit from the tournament. Both are affiliated with the Mustard Seed.

Managing director Dean Kurpjuweit explained the funds raised will help all three groups offer potentially life-changing support to people on the street including help finding housing and jobs.

"It's not just that moment where you get maybe a bowl of chilli, it's that moment where somebody sits you down and says you're worthy, you have things to give to society, we love you," Kurpjuweit said.

Ryan Baillie said Hockey Helps the Homeless has raised $10 million for charities across Canada since 1996. (Sam Martin/CBC)

While the cause is the main reason for taking part for Jason Stanton, the chance to rub shoulders with Glenn Anderson was a major bonus, especially since those hockey cards he and his brother saved are now real collectors' items.

"We dug through our old hockey cards and found a couple of rookie cards and he's been really gracious and signed them for us."
Dean Kurpjuweit said the proceeds will help charities provide housing support and counselling as well as basic necessities like food and hygiene products for the homeless and poor. (Sam Martin/CBC News)