To take part in the 24th annual National Hockey League Players Association Golf Classic, former NHL player Jason Podollan just had to step out his front door.
For the second year in a row the charity tournament, that features approximately 40 current and former NHL players, was hosted at Predator Ridge Golf Resort Thursday.
“It’s great to be 300 metres away and be able to come down and participate,” said Podollan.
“Last year I played for BC Children’s Hospital and that is a charity that is near and dear to us because our youngest was in intensive care there for two weeks… and they were amazing, so it was nice to be able to give back to them.”
Since 1993, the NHLPA Golf Classic has raised over $3.5 million for various player-supported charities.
The tournament started with a downpour but in true Okanagan fashion, the rain gave them a break and dried up after a few minutes.
Teeing off on hole one of The Ridge course was Kelly Hrudey, former NHL goalie and Hockey Night In Canada personality, who started the tournament with a solid drive.
“I’m an avid golfer, I’m totally addicted to the game but truth be told I’m not playing very well lately,” said Hrudey.
This year, Hrudey’s charity of choice is mental health.
“It’s something that we have in our family and we are real passionate about talking about it and making sure that people feel like they can talk about their troubles and hopefully get support and strength from that,” he said.
Former Vancouver Canuck goalie Kirk McLean’s new role with the Canucks is keeping him away from the golf course.
“I still kinda ham and egg it around and hit my handicap which is a nine/10, so I’m happy with that,” said McLean.
Now that McLean’s professional playing days are over, he is learning what goes into making an NHL team run, as he takes on the corporate, marketing and sales side of things for the Canucks.
“I’m getting a real good idea and appreciation for what all those people have been doing for all those years when we were out there as the centre of attention,” he said.
“It’s those behind the scenes people that make it easy.”
Dave Babych, a former NHL defenceman, made the trip from Vancouver to connect with old friends and golf for charity.
“It’s great to get together with these guys that you played against and watch on TV now and some of the guys from the players association that helped you out before, so it’s always good to come out to these events,” said Babych, a father of five boys on the North Shore.