As the Manitoba Moose get set for the Calder Cup Playoffs, some of the team members took in a little bowling during their off-ice time.
They surprised a group of Special Olympics athletes at their weeknight bowling practice. Heading up the crew of five Moose players was center Brody Sutter.
Shortly after arriving in Winnipeg last September to join the AHL team, Sutter suggested getting involved with Special Olympics because of a close connection he has to the organization.
“I have a cousin who has Down Syndrome and is pretty heavily involved in Special Olympics. I know how much it means to him and his family,” said Sutter.
“Every time I see him he has a new story to tell me and it’s honestly one of his favorite nights of the week when he gets together with everyone.”
With help from the Manitoba Moose community relations manager, Kory Harnum, a connection was made between Sutter and Special Olympics in Winnipeg.
“This was an opportunity to reach out to Special Olympics and say, ‘hey we have a guy interested in hanging out with some of your athletes’ and they were on board,” said Harnum.
Alongside Sutter, his teammates Francis Beauvillier, Darren Kramer, Jake Kulevich and Nelson Nogier also laced up their bowling shoes to get in on the action.
“I kinda asked a few guys on the team if they wanted to be involved and the guys jumped at it, I had to turn guys down cause we had too many,” said Sutter.
Just moments after the initial introductions at the Billy Mosienko Lanes, Garrick Vandenberghe, a member on the Special Olympics 5-Pin Bowling team, made a b-line to Sutter and welcomed him with a huge hug.
“To me it was a magical moment,” said Melissa Perron, assistant coach of the bowling team.
“It’s warming my heart to see that people that don’t know each other, know each other through the love of sport.”
Getting involved in off-ice events like this is something Sutter and many other players on the team look forward to.
“Anytime you go to a new team essentially a city adopts you. You pick up your life and you move and go to a new community you’ve never been. This helps you feel like you’re part of the community,” said Sutter.
High-fives were quickly flying as the Moose players and members of the bowling team rolled through some games of Bingo Bowling.
“We get to bowl with a different type of athlete, the Moose players, which is amazing,” said Perron.
The seven athletes from Winnipeg on the bowling team get together several times a week, practicing their shot, building strength and conditioning through Cross-Fit work-outs.
In May, they will be joining up with the rest of Team Manitoba and heading to Prince Edward Island for the Special Olympics Canada 5-Pin Bowling Championships.
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