The community of Redvers celebrated its hockey history and those who have gone on to succeed at higher levels during the Redvers Recreation Sportsman Dinner and Auction April 13.
The event had two guest speakers that night. Sexual abuse survivor and former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy shared his experiences with the crowd that gathered inside the Redvers and District Recreation Centre
He talked about his experiences in Swift Current with the Broncos, the abuse that he suffered at the hands of his junior hockey coach Graham James, and surviving the 1986 bus crash east of Swift Current that killed four of his teammates.
“It ruined his hockey career, but he was able to take that now and turn it into a positive and be there for the Humboldt Broncos after their tragedy,” said Redvers Town Councillor Ryan Toms, who was involved with organizing the event.
Toms was stunned at how raw the speech was, and how emotional he can still be. But Toms said it remains a very interesting story.
“Being that he is from Elkhorn (Manitoba), a community that is an hour away, it made it a lot more real for people to realize that it could happen to their children,” said Toms.
Redvers native Dean Kennedy, who played more than 700 games in the NHL, joined Sheldon Kennedy on stage for a 45-minute question and answer session.
Shawn Madsen was the MC for the evening, and the moderator for the question and answer.
“Sheldon and Dean were asked the same questions, and they talked about some old hockey stories, and where they feel the game has gone now, and how they’re not fond of some of the changes in hockey today,” said Toms.
The two Kennedys weren’t the only attractions that night.
All of the people who played minor hockey in the town, or have ties to the town, and went on to play hockey at the junior, post-secondary or professional levels, were saluted during the event. Three women who went on to play university hockey were also recognized.
Toms noted he knows of 39 athletes from the Redvers area who have gone on to play at higher levels. A little more than half of them were there for the banquet. Others have moved away from Redvers and couldn’t make it.
“It all goes back to a very strong minor hockey program, as well as very knowledgeable hockey coaches, as well as CanSkate and power skating coaches,” said Toms.
This is the first time that Toms is aware of in which Redvers has recognized all of those who have enjoyed success at the higher levels of the sport. He knows that they once honoured Dean Kennedy and a female hockey player who nearly made the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team, but they didn’t salute all of the other people that they recognized last weekend.
A live auction and a silent auction were part of the evening. Dean Kennedy, who captained the Winnipeg Jets in the 1990s, brought a Jets jersey autographed by all of the Jets former captains. Toms said they don’t have a final number, but the estimate is that the event raised about $23,000 for the upkeep of the recreation centre and the ball diamonds.