Dane Hantscher didn't say much, but the eight-year-old with the tousled mop of hair didn't have to -- he was the star of the day anyway.
Hantscher, who is battling leukemia, was the recipient of a Believe in the Goal Foundation's NHL Experience Getaway earlier this year and he'll drop the puck at the fifth annual SuperStar Summer Showdown charity hockey game set for Aug. 12 at the MTS Centre. The ceremonial faceoff will include Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and the yet-to-be named captain of the other team.
As a group of Manitoba's professional hockey players gathered Tuesday to announce the event, which also includes a golf game on Aug. 11 at Bel Acres, it was easy to see how much their fundraising efforts are appreciated.
"The best part of the trip was watching the Vancouver Canucks play the San Jose Sharks because I got to see my idol on the ice, Joe Thornton," said Hantscher, who met Thornton in March in Vancouver when he attended two NHL games featuring the Canucks against the San Jose Sharks and then Detroit Red Wings. Though his treatment will continue for another two years, he finished the intense phase last fall and a few weeks later made the Fort Richmond Kings 8A1 hockey team.
Money raised from the SuperStar Summer Showdown goes to the Believe in the Goal Foundation which was started by Todd Davison, a rising junior hockey star until he was stricken with cancer. He started the Foundation with a goal of assisting other young people in Manitoba who are battling cancer.
The charity hockey game has massive star power and the young men participating, most of whom were Davison's friends, are glad to bring it. Players such Toews, Travis Zajac, Nigel Dawes, Colton Orr, Jordin Tootoo and Cam Barker participate every year.
This year's goal is to "sell out the Bowl' with the hope of selling 8,000 tickets for the game.
"It's been great to see how much this event has gotten bigger. Last year, we sold 5,000 tickets, that's more than a Phoenix Coyotes home game," laughed Zajac, a centre with New Jersey Devils.
"It's amazing to see the players come together and it's due to Todd inspiring us. I had the privilege of being his friend, growing up with him, and then seeing his unselfishness and determination. For us to come out and play a hockey game, we believe in what this foundation is doing and it's special to us."
After Davison's death on Dec. 2, 2006 at age 20, his family and friends have been continuing his work with the Foundation and the charity hockey and golf events.
"We've played in the league (NHL) now for a couple of years, we know guys, we get the word out and our goal has become that every guy from Manitoba try to bring one or two guys out," said Dawes, a Calgary Flames left-winger. "In a way, we all feel a responsibility to give back to the game but every guy wants to give back."
Colleen Deckert, Believe in the Goal Foundation Inc. president, said the popular "Autograph Alley" where the game's stars sign autographs for ticket holders on game day will be back. Tickets for the hockey game are available at www.ticketmaster.ca or 780-3333. For more information on the event, see the new website www.believeinthegoal.com
14 big leaguers
are on-board so far
Player list (so far) for fifth annual SuperStar Summer Showdown charity hockey game Aug. 12 at the MTS Centre:
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Cam Barker, Minnesota Wild
Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils
Colton Orr, Toronto Maple Leafs
Darren Helm, Detroit Red Wings
Jordin Tootoo, Nashville Predators
Nigel Dawes, Calgary Flames
Dustin Boyd, Montreal Canadiens
Eric Fehr, Washington Capitals
Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers
Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators
Derek Meech, Detroit Red Wings
Ian White, Calgary Flames
Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders