Three-day hunt assists youth hockey players
Tired, but happy, hunters dipped into their wallets Saturday to take part in the real reason for the Fourth Annual Pro Hockey Celebrity Hunt.
The hunt, organizer Dave Tronnes said, drew about 200 hundred people to the Highland Conference Center Saturday evening and raised about $45,000 before expenses, for the Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation, a program to support youth hockey and scholarships. Tronnes, in opening banquet comments, urged the room to be generous.
“We’ve got some great kids out there,” he said. “And anyone who worries about the future of our kids, shouldn’t.”
The foundation was named for Sam Tronnes, the late son of Dave and his wife Maxine. Sam Tronnes, who died in a 2005 construction mishap, was involved in hockey throughout his youth, and traveled to Huron to play hockey before Mitchell developed its own arena in 1996.
After Sam’s death, the Huron Hockey Association began a scholarship program in his honor and Dave and Maxine, with the support of USA Hockey, followed that lead by establishing the memorial foundation several years later. The organization is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
USA Hockey is the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based national governing body for youth hockey in the United States. It has more than 500,000 members.
Last year’s Pro Celebrity Hunt raised $53,000 for college-bound kids involved in Mitchell and South Dakota hockey. In 2013 it distributed $37,000 in scholarships and grants, a number that included $500 grants to each of South Dakota’s 11 towns with hockey rinks; $1,500 grants to youth hockey programs in Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and Pierre; and $10,000 to the Mitchell Hockey Association to support the city’s new hockey arena.
The hunt began in Aberdeen on Thursday, moved to Redfield on Friday and ended in Mitchell on Saturday.
Tronnes, the assistant general manager and vice president of manufacturing for Toshiba Business Solutions in Mitchell, said about 72 hunters went to seven different hunting locations on Saturday.
Tronnes’ boss, Scott MacCabe, of Laguna Hills, Calif., the president and CEO of Toshiba America Business Solutions, attended Saturday’s hunt and banquet. He was found joking with a group of fellow hunters prior to taking the field early Saturday.
“I came out to support Dave and the program,” MacCabe said. “This is a great event to support the community and young people. I’m really proud that Dave is involved in it and driving it. The company is behind him and I wanted to show that personally, as well.”
It was the third year that former Olympian and NHL player Guy Gosselin took part in the event. Saturday. Gosselin, 49, who lives near Milwaukee, now tours the country teaching the “Athletic Development Model” for USA Hockey, Tronnes said.
“It teaches young kids how to play the game before they play the game,” he explained.
Gosselin played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth in college, the 1988 and 1992 Olympic teams, and three U.S. national teams
“It’s a great event for a great cause and we really enjoy coming out,” Gosselin said. “People are very gracious and it’s such a welcoming event.”
Graig Hale of the Sportsman Channel, Milwaukee, filmed one hunt Saturday northwest of Mitchell.
“We all love to hunt. It’s a good weekend and we believe in the cause,” he said.
The event will likely be broadcast as part of a hunting adventures program later his year, he said.
Len Lilyholm, 72, of Minneapolis, said he began his hockey career for the University of Minnesota, played on several U.S. National teams, in the 1968 Olympics and also played overseas. A retired architect, he said the celebrity pheasant hunt is a welcome change from golf tournaments. He said he still enjoys getting on the ice with friends several times a week.
“I love coming to South Dakota,” he said. “And this is a wonderful event with a great purpose — helping South Dakota girls and boys who want to play hockey.”
Former U.S. Team coach Lou Vairo, of Colorado Springs also attended. A practiced raconteur, Vairo, 68, told of how he, a kid from Brooklyn, N.Y., always wanted to play baseball for the Yankees or hockey for the New York Rangers. He said an unlikely friendship with Anatoli Tarasov, who has been called the “Father of Russian Hockey,” changed his life.
Using the training techniques learned under Tarasov, Vairo went on to develop numerous winning teams and coached the 1984 Olympic team. He is the current director of special projects for USA Hockey.
Other former NHL players who hunted Saturday included Brian “Butsy” Erickson, John Taft, Gordie Roberts and Dave Jensen.
Tronnes said next year’s Pro Hockey Celebrity Hunt will be held Nov. 15.
“It’s a lot of work but we’ve got tremendous support in Mitchell. That’s what makes this thing work,” he said.