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Former NHL players return to SD for Pro Hockey Celebrity Hunt

Dave Tronnes is excited about how much past success and support the Pro Hockey Celebrity Hunt has brought into South Dakota and is looking forward to another great turnout.

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The annual Mitchell event, which is in its fourth year, kicks off today and benefits Sam Tronnes Memorial Foundation scholarships for South Dakota hockey players.

“We have a lot of great support from the celebrities and our sponsors for this event,” foundation president Tronnes said, adding the event has several first-time sponsors this year. “It’s easy for these big companies like U.S. Bank, Buck Knives and Sanford Health to help because it’s providing opportunities for kids.”

This year’s celebrities are headlined by Shjon Podein, a Stanley Cup champion in 2000-01 with the Colorado Avalanche. Podein, a Rochester, Minn., native, played in the National Hockey League for 11 yards for the Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers and finished his career with Colorado. Joining him on the hunt are two-time U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team member Guy Gosselin, 1984 Olympian and former Minnesota North Star Dave Jensen, former University of Minnesota Gopher and NHL player Bryan Erickson, head coach of the 1984 Olympic team and current director of special projects for USA Hockey Lou Vairo and 1976 Olympic team member and former member of the Detroit Red Wings John Taft.

Tronnes said the celebrities enjoy coming into the state for two days of pheasant hunting.

“It’s a very unique experience for them and it’s a special deal,” he said. “We try to treat them like the celebrities they are and they are appreciative. They love to mingle with the kids, sign autographs and enjoy the experience.”

The celebrities begin hunting Friday on their way to Mitchell from Aberdeen. The main hunt is Saturday morning when teams, which are made up of a celebrity and paid hunters, hit the fields to pheasant hunt. Tronnes added land is donated for the event.

“This gives them an opportunity to shoot even with diminished numbers,” he said, adding there are 75 hunters going into the fields Saturday.

There are receptions set for Friday and Saturday evenings at the Highland Conference Center in Mitchell. The Friday reception is for registered hunters only, but Saturday’s reception is open to members of the public who have previously registered at

Signed memorabilia, TVs and other items will be auctioned, and proceeds go toward the foundation.

Last year, the foundation collected $36,000 and it raised $43,000 in 2011.

The foundation gave out 11 scholarships, which have been given out for nine years, last year to South Dakota players, two of which were Mitchell’s Cara Beck and Ashley Murtha, in amounts from $500 to $2,500.

For the first time last year, the Pro Hockey Celebrity Hunt gave grants out to support youth hockey in the state. It awarded 11 South Dakota amateur affiliates with $500 grants and three $1,500 to the Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and Oahe associations.

Tronnes started the foundation in honor of his son Sam, who died in 2005, and it has been in existence for four years. This year, a film crew will capture the event for a segment on The Sportsman’s Channel.

“Hockey is a little bit new out here and we have people coming from Pierre, Huron, Aberdeen and other places,” Tronnes said. “Meeting these people at an event like this just doesn’t happen around South Dakota very often. We’ll get to meet and talk to these guys.”

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.