BEDFORD, N.S. – It was a weekend that most hockey fans can only dream of: getting to share the ice with NHL alumni. But it was real and happening in Bedford, N.S.
“We’ve got 16 teams here at BMO Centre, and a big contingency of NHL alumni and having their dream day in front of them, so it’s a dream weekend,” said Michael Steele.
Among the NHL alumni is Al Iafrate, a former Toronto Maple Leafs player, and a heart attack survivor.
“When I was I guess I was 39, I was coaching my son’s hockey team and I was having a massive heart attack when I was coaching the team,” he told Global News.
Each player had to raise a minimum of $1,000 to play.
“All the guys that get to play with their hockey heroes, all the guys they idolized growing up, it’s a great weekend, it’s a win-win for everybody” Iafrate says.
” We’re all 12 years old and we want to make the NHL and we’re treated like NHL players this weekend” says John Guinan, who underwent open heart surgery just a few years ago. Guinan’s team raised the most money this year for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
“Here I am four years later, I’m lucky to be on the ice,” he said while clutching his hockey stick.
“Most of the players are the ones I grew up watching play in the NHL so it’s great to be able to play against them and see how they’ve come along the years,” said Jill Lewis, one of only two female players taking part in the Hockey Heroes event.
For Michael Steele, today was a big day.
“We played one game already, 7-4, our first win in four years, so it’s great.”
Hockey heroes is the largest single fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The goal for this year was to raise $470,000 dollars — a goal that that just might be surpassed.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to find that this is going to be our most successful year yet. Lots of players have stepped to the plate and raised a lot of money. It’s a great cause that certainly affects every single one of us in one way or another” said Steele.
Since 2011, Hockey Heroes has raised $1.1 million. There are similar events taking place in Moncton and St. John’s in May.