The Innisfail Eagles took a big step towards the Allan Cup last year on the ice, this week they are hoping they have taken a big step towards it off the ice.
On Wednesday night they hosted their first ever Sportsman Dinner, headlined by Calgary Flames president Brian Burke, and on Thursday they held their fourth annual charity golf tournament at the Innisfail Golf Club.
Other NHLers at the event included current Calgary Hitmen president of hockey operations Kelly Kisio, former Flames general manager and current TSN hockey analyst Craig Button, Oilers scout Duane Sutter and former coach and player Rich Preston.
“They had everyone in their hands last night, it was a really nice evening” said Eagles head coach Brian Sutter. “It was just like sitting around the campfire, everyone was asking questions and they were talking about things. They are an awesome group of people and this part of the world was blessed to have them there last night.”
The Eagles lost out to the Bentley Generals in three straight games in the McKenzie Cup final series to go to the Allan Cup in their first season back at the senior AAA level.
Sutter says they started preparing for the upcoming season the day after they were eliminated by their Central Alberta rival. Though he would not name who they’ve recruited, he says they have been busy beefing up their roster.
“You look for character, whether it be on defence or forward, and then you combine the character with the skill,” said Sutter.
“But you build around good people first.”
The Helping Hand Fund, which helps underprivileged kids play sports, is the Eagles’ charity of choice with their golf tournament, raising more than $7,500 in the first three years.
It is also an opportunity for them to give back to their sponsors and fan base.
“We wanted to get the community involved when we came here and we’ve taken a big step in that direction,” said Sutter.
“When you sell out the building like we did for a number of games last year, we probably had more people in the building for one night than other teams had throughout the year. It tells you we’re getting the support but you’ve also got to have the product on the ice too, you’ve got to surround yourself with good people.”
l Legendary Canadian rock back Trooper will headline the seventh annual Gord Bamford Charity Golf Classic gala at the Sheraton Hotel Exhibition Hall in Red Deer on Aug. 13. Also in attendance for the invitation only gala include musical artists Cowboy Troy, Byron Hill, Phil O’Donnell, Buddy Owens, Jason Blaine, Beverly Mahood, Aaron Pritchett and Duane Steele, along with Bamford. Other celebrities at both the gala and the golf tournament at Lacombe Golf and Country Club include Olympians Natalie Spooner, Meagan Mikkelson, Shannon Szabados and Rebecca Johnston from the Canadian women’s gold medal hockey teams, curlers Kaitlyn Lawes and Jill Officer, Calgary Flames Curtis Glencross and Kris Russell and alumnus Theoren Fleury, and Canadian and World champion rodeo cowboys Dave Shields, Jr. and brothers Rod and Denny Hay.