By Dianne Cornish, REVIEW STAFF
For members of the Flamborough Peewee AE Sabres, last weekend’s dreary weather had a silver lining, with hockey celebrity Don Cherry paying tribute to the team for dedicating their season to supporting Canadian troops.
All 17 members of the Flamborough team climbed aboard a bus, along with their coaching staff and parents, to attend the Canadian Armed Forces Rally and Ringside for Kids event in Toronto last Saturday night. The event, which saw members of Canada’s military and police personnel square off against their American counterparts in charity amateur boxing matches to raise money for the Canada Company Scholarship Fund, was highlighted by Cherry’s appearance as a special guest. He was joined in the ring by members of the Flamborough team, which presented a cheque of $1,556.84 to the charity, which provides funds for the post-secondary education of children of fallen soldiers. The team, composed primarily of twelve-year-olds, raised the money at a barbecue held last month at Sobeys in Waterdown.
Head coach Chris Kusmirski said the players were “thrilled” to be recognized for their efforts at the event. “We had an absolutely incredible day.”
The highlight for the Sabres was an opportunity to meet Cherry. He not only signed their jerseys but made a special effort to speak with everyone on the team, Kusmirski said. “He spoke of our initiative and how wonderful it is to educate the players about more than just hockey,” the head coach said. Cherry also told the crowd: “I wish more Canadians were like these kids.”
“Getting that endorsement from Cherry was wonderful,” Kusmirski said, adding that the team has “bought into” the initiative in a big way. Each player is required to write a short biography about a Canadian soldier and read their report to their teammates in the dressing room before every tournament game. The game is then dedicated to the soldier.
“We’ve done six already, with eleven to go,” Kusmirski said.
The presentations are about four or five minutes long and the players put a lot of effort into them. “Some of their parents have told me that they’re working harder at it than their homework,” the head coach said.
The initiative grew out of encouragement from the Flamborough Hockey Association (FHA) for local teams to adopt the motto, Building Character Through Sport.
Kusmirski’s 17-year-old son and a member of the team’s coaching staff, Chris Jr., has spearheaded the initiative, ordering camouflage uniforms for the team to wear during tournament games and coming up with the idea of dedicating the season to the Canadian military.
Kusmirski Sr. said the team had only expected to raise a couple of hundred dollars for the Canada Company Scholarship Fund at the recent barbecue, but were delighted when the Flamborough community rallied behind them and supported the fundraiser to the hilt.
“They (residents) must have figured it was a good initiative,” he said.
The initiative will continue for the balance of the season, with the Peewee AE Sabres donning their camouflage jerseys for this Saturday’s home game at the North Wentworth Arena in honour of the match being their closest to Remembrance Day. Local veterans are encouraged to attend the game, during which the team will pay tribute to them.
The team’s next tournament will take place at the Veteran’s Cup in Pittsburgh, Nov. 9-11. The players will also wear their camouflage jerseys then.
Players include Adam Bezan, Luca Cianflone, Conor Espey, Justin Heary, Brady Kerr, Jack Langford, Shannon MacDonald, Stuart Marler, Ryan Parker, Lucas Parsons, Spencer Pearce, Jakob Pleskina, Dante Tesoro, Nathan Thornhill and Zachary Wood, and goaltenders Joshua Metham and Matthew Watson. Working with the Kusmirskis on the coaching staff are Craig Fisher, Bill Monteith, Steve Pearse, Zach Pearse and Harry Wood.
The team would like to thank the following people and organizations for their support: Breakaway Distributing for the design and quick turnaround on the camouflage jerseys, Sobeys for their sponsorship and support at the barbecue fundraiser, the Flamborough Review for all its coverage, Attridge for the bus transportation to Toronto and Scutt Signs of Guelph for the giant-sized cheque sign.