In many ways the 21st annual Kinsmen Celebrity Sports Banquet was typical of those in the past: a stage full of noted athletes provided a lot of laughs and a lot of money was raised for local sports programs.
However, banquet chairman Cory Olafson feels that in the two years since title sponsor K+S Potash Canada has come on board the event has taken a step to another level.
“K+S Potash Canada has helped us take this to the next level,” said Olafson. “They have elevated the level of guests we’ve been able to bring in.
“Their financial support has allowed us to get to the ‘A’ list of celebrities, in my opinion.”
This year the list of guest speakers featured Hall of Famers Joe Carter and Paul Coffey along with popular Saskatchewan Roughrider receiver Weston Dressler. The event was emceed by broadcaster Gord Stellick.
“It was a pretty successful night. It was well-attended and the auctions seemed to go well,” said Olafson.
The first banquet raised $5,000 for local sports programs. This year’s event is expected to raise 10 times that amount thanks to auctions, raffles and ticket sales.
“I’m very proud that 100 per cent of the money we raise, stays here stay in Moose Jaw,” said Olafson.
The banquet helps fund Kinsmen-sponsored clubs like the Flying Fins swimming program, Moose Jaw Minor Football, Kinsmen Wrestling Club, the Kinsmen pool and arena, the club’s contribution to Mosaic Place, Kinsmen Lacrosse, plus the Heart of the City piano program. The Kinsmen also announced they will be forming a chapter of KidSport in the city.
Carter’s personality filled the room and the hero of the Toronto Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series title didn’t disappoint the crowd. After his speech he even opened the floor to questions.
Carter had 396 career home runs and six more in the post-season — including his famous walk-off home run to win the ’93 Series — over 16 seasons. While that’s an impressive number, he said hindsight has made him feel even better about what he achieved given the ‘Steroid Era’ that took off at towards the end of his career.
“Our numbers look a lot better now,” said Carter. “We did things the right way and I can sleep at night knowing I played the game the right way. I can look back on my career with my head held up high.”
Coffey won four Stanley Cups and is second in NHL history in goals and points by a defenceman. The gifted offensive-defenceman was part of the freewheeling Edmonton Oiler teams of the 1980s and he lamented the way the game has changed.
Coffey coaches one of his sons in minor hockey, decried the over-reliance on systems-based hockey at all levels of the game.
“I think the players are smarter, but they don’t get a chance to show it,” said Coffey. “I think there are too many systems and the game is over-coached. The players aren’t allowed to be creative.”
Dressler told the crowd, in part, about his start in the sport. He was too young to play, but practiced for three years until he was old enough at which time he was told he was too small to compete. The Bismarck, N.D. league relented and Dressler has been overcoming knocks about his size ever since.
Stellick became the youngest general manager in NHL history when Harold Ballard hired him to take charge of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the age of 30. Stellick quipped that 16 months later he was also the youngest ex-GM in NHL history.
Local volleyball and fastball coach Brad Hennenfent won the Times-Herald Sports Builder Award for his 30-plus years of coaching and volunteering.
Former CFL safety Dylan Barker presented local powerlifting world champion Rhaea Fowler with the Kinsmen Sports Achievement Award. Barker, who was last year’s recipient, had some humourous exchanges with Dressler. Barker took credit for half of Dressler’s career yards-after-the-catch.
The Moose Jaw Warriors won the Team of the Year award which was accepted by captain Kendall McFaull.