Fort McMurray fire in hearts of players, coaches and leagues

Among the pressure and the spotlight, teams, players and the Canadian Hockey League have not forgotten about the tragedy in Fort McMurray.

Among the pressure and the spotlight, teams, players and the Canadian Hockey League have not forgotten about the tragedy in Fort McMurray.

At all levels, those involved in the MasterCard Memorial Cup are doing what they can.

It started on the eve Memorial Cup’s arrival in Red Deer, when the CHL announced a huge monetary donation to the Red Cross in the sum of $50,000 as well as the proceeds of the 50/50 draws from the games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

MasterCard joined in on the donation train, by matching the $50,000 bringing it to $100,000.

“For the first time in 42 years the Memorial Cup will be presented in Alberta,” said David Branch, CHL president. “While we join here in celebration of our great game, may our thoughts extend to the residents of Fort McMurray, a great hockey community, and the many Albertans affected by the tragic wildfires. On behalf of the Canadian Hockey League, we pledge our support to the Canadian Red Cross to help those in need during this most difficult time.”

The 50/50 draw donations will be made on behalf of the Red Deer Host Organizing Committee. Friday night’s 50/50 pot was $21,523. Saturday’s pot was $21,153.

Before Saturday’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies vs. Brandon Wheat Kings game, two Red Deer Emergency Services firefighters were honoured for their efforts fighting the Fort McMurray fire. The packed Centrium gave them a standing ovation.

Midway through the game, a giant flag with signatures of support from Memorial Cup fans was passed around the upper deck of the arena. The flag will be sent up to Fort McMurray.

Then on Thursday, Red Deer Rebels forward Conner Bleackley offered to donate $20 for every goal his team scores during the tournament. The High River native reflected on the impact the 2013 floods had on his family and community.

“I know how important and uplifting it is to receive the support from everyone across Canada and the world,” he wrote in a tweet.

He plans to make the donation on May 30, after the tournament has ended and to coincide with the federal government’s May 31 deadline for their matching donations.

Bleackley even tried to add some goals of his own to strengthen the pot, but was stopped cold by London Knight goalie Tyler Parsons. Bleackley returned to the Rebels lineup Friday night against the Knights. He missed all of the post-season with a cut on his wrist in the last regular season game.

mcrawford@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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