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'Humboldt Strong' in Tillsonburg

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Saturday night's charity hockey game in Tillsonburg raised nearly $3,000 for the Humboldt Strong Community Foundation.

"It was a good community p roject, good to get everybody together," said Mike Holly, president of the Tillsonburg Thunder. "It was a good idea."

Saturday's game included Tillsonburg Thunder players, both current and alumni; Tillsonburg Hurricanes junior hockey players and their coach Jason Dopaco; local minor minor hockey grads, including Harlen Vanwynsberghe, Jack Moylan, Gus Ford, Raine Steadman, and defenceman Max Coyle, winner of the 2018 Jr. B Sutherland Cup (with the Listowel Cyclones); and OPP.

Ice time was donated by the Town of Tillsonburg.

"I've been playing some oldtimers," said Thunder alumnus Terry Lammens. "The Langton Oldbirds, we play Monday nights out of Langton and travel around - Waterford, Ayr, Port Dover, Delhi, Simcoe, Aylmer. It's pretty laid-back."

Lammens noted that some players Saturday night were not quite in prime shape two months into the off-season, and was quick to admit he was one of those.

"Felt like I had 50-pound bags of potatoes on both legs," he laughed.

But it was soon forgotten in the dressing room after the game, knowing they had raised almost $3,000 for Humboldt, and enjoying the camaraderie hockey players of all ages experience across the country.

"It's always fun playing with the guys, seeing a few old faces. A lot of young ones here, too. Some of the guys I played with like (Brad) Streib and (Justin) Salt, they just had other things going on, busy. Tonight, it's just fun hanging out in the dressing room. That's why I sit beside Lamb... that's what it's all about.

"I say 'why do I do this to myself?'" he added with a laugh, "but this is what it's all about, the hanging out, enjoying it, and having fun.

"And I think they raised pretty good money tonight."

The final tally Saturday night was $2,860.20, including donations at the gate, raffle tickets, 50/50 draw, and silent auction. A game-worn jersey, signed by all players Saturday night, will be sent to Humboldt with the donation.

Team White's Sergeant David Barnabi, OPP Training Bureau, scored four goals, plus an assist, for a career-high five-point night.

"I played high school (hockey) and that's about it," said Barnabi. "Some shinny hockey here and there."

His laser shot proved to be deadly in the second of two 25-minute periods, completing his hat trick with 14:33 left to play, and adding late-game insurance as Team White came from behind to win 12-9.

"Very good linemates," Barnabi nodded. "They got me the puck, it bounced in off my shins, and that's what happens when you go to the net. I've never played with guys this good before - all I did was skate to the net and they got me the puck. They did all the work.

"There was some good camaraderie out there, lots of fun."

The cause Saturday night was front and centre - raising funds for the people of Humboldt after a tragic bus accident claimed the lives of 16 people, including 10 junior hockey players in Saskatchewan on April 6.

"In Canada, the hockey community is huge," said Barnabi. "Any time that the community can come together and show some solidarity, that's great. As a first responder, you think about the first responders who were there. There were a lot of victims and families who lost family members, and the first responders who had to respond to that... the emergency services there - the fire, EMS, police - the hospital staff, the ripple effect of that tragedy is huge.

"For us to be thousands of miles away and being able to show some type of support, it's great."

Organizers of Saturday's game have suggested the charity exhibition continue next year, perhaps played before ice comes out at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena, and for a different charity. Barnabi said he's all for it.

"Charity is charity, I think there's so much distress in the world. As long as we can stand behind the charity, and show that we can help each other out, any type of charity is a really good charity. So... absolutely. As a first responder, we're just one piece of the puzzle. There's all sorts of different jobs out here," he said, nodding toward the dressing room. "People come from all sorts of communities, and a variety of ages."

Tillsonburg Hurricanes' Jacob Walter, from Malmkoping, Sweden, was joined Saturday night by GMHL teammates Lee and Connor Madill, Noah Demelo and Griffin Sinden, as well as their coach Jason Dopaco.

"I played this past season here," said 19-year-old Walter, who was traded to the Hurricanes last November. "I really enjoy this place.

"It was a good game, it was a lot of fun. Cool to see all the guys who went pretty far from Tillsonburg. Too bad that (Gregory) Campbell couldn't play, but it was a lot of fun.

"And mixed ages. Those guys (Team White) showed they had experience, that's what did it. The older team came back... and that's pretty much it," Walter smiled, recalling Team White's second-period rally.

As of April 18, GoFundMe online fundraising to support Humboldt victims and their families had surpassed $15 million. Other donations are being directed to a Humboldt Strong Community Foundation.

"It was a huge tragedy," said Walter. "Usually you take it (safe bus trips) for granted, but it's not. You leave and you arrive, you take it for granted. Not every time.

"But this (charity game) is a good thing, raise some money for them. And have a good time as well. It was a lot of fun for a good cause." 

cabbott@postmedia.com

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