Tim Thomas, NHL stars support SD youth hockeyFor local hockey fans, there is at least one positive aspect of the NHL lockout.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
For local hockey fans, there is at least one positive aspect of the NHL lockout.
The ongoing labor dispute means NHL stars’ schedules are freed up to participate today through Saturday in Mitchell’s annual Pro Hockey Celebrity Hunt, which benefits Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation scholarships for South Dakota hockey players and USA Hockey Brendan Burke Internship.
Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is among the stars scheduled to attend.
“I grew up in Michigan and did some deer hunting and some pheasant as well,” Thomas said. “I’ve had to put hunting on hold for my career, and this year I get an opportunity to do something that has been on the back burner for so many years.”
Thomas won the 2011 Stanley Cup with the Bruins and was Most Valuable Player of the series. He is a four-time NHL all-star and a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best NHL goalie. He represented the United States in the 2010 Olympics and has participated in five Ice Hockey World Championships.
The NHL is in a lockout arising from a labor dispute and has canceled all games through November. That means Thomas and some other stars’ schedules are cleared, and he’s excited to visit South Dakota and experience its famous pheasant hunting.
“Since South Dakota doesn’t have a professional team, I haven’t made it out here before,” said Thomas, who heard about the event from the USA Hockey Headquarters in Colorado. “I’m interested in seeing it and meeting people from there.
“Hunting just brings me back to my youth, and I like being outdoors and enjoy the camaraderie of the guys.”
Other celebrities attending the event include U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member John Vanbiesbrouck, 1968 Olympian Len Lilyholm, 1984 Olympian Dave Jensen, two-time Olympian Guy Gosselin, 2001 Stanley Cup champion Shjon Podein and former NHL player Paul Ranheim.
Dave Tronnes, president of the foundation, said the fundraiser is a unique event in the state, because of the scholarships it helps fund and because of its potential impact on youth interest in the sport.
“Thomas is the most decorated player in this day and age,” Tronnes said, “and to have kids see him and interact with him and the other celebrities is a big deal.”
The event begins tonight in Aberdeen, where it kicks off at a hockey game between the Aberdeen Wings and the Brookings Blizzards. The celebrities will begin hunting Friday on their way to Mitchell from Aberdeen.
The main hunt is Saturday when eight teams of no more than 10 people hit the fields to pheasant hunt. The teams will consist of a celebrity and paid hunters.
“The small groups give them time to interact and talk hockey and other sports,” said Tronnes, who said land was donated for the event.
There are receptions set for Friday and Saturday evenings at the Ramada Inn in Mitchell. The Friday reception is for registered hunters only, but the final reception is open to members of the public who have previously registered at prohockeycelebrityhunt.com.
Signed memorabilia and other items will be auctioned, and of all the proceeds earned, the foundation gives $5,000 to the Brendan Burke Internship and the rest of the earnings go toward youth scholarships.
Last year, the foundation collected $43,000 from the event.
Tronnes said he has worked with other groups to give scholarships for eight years, giving amounts from $500 to $2,500 about 60 recipients. Tronnes started the foundation in honor of his son Sam, who died in 2005, and it has been in existence for three years.
This year, a film crew from Buck Knives will capture the event for a segment on The Sportsman Channel, and a writer from Outdoor Life will also cover the event.
“This is really big for Mitchell,” Tronnes said. “Executives from channels are coming not only to hunt but to cover this event. This is not only good for Mitchell hockey, but for our city and state.”