FORT FRANCES—The Fort Frances Times Tigers IP2 hockey team got a chance to both live out a dream and help their community Monday morning at the Ice for Kids Arena here.
The Tigers won the right to skate with the Iowa Stars, the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate, after submitting the winning bid of $1,324 in an auction last month supporting the “Just Imagine” campaign for a CT Scanner at La Verendrye Hospital.
After warming up with the Stars, the Tigers got to watch from the bench as the NHL hopefuls were put through their paces by head coach Dave Allison, a Fort Frances native and former coach for the now defunct Borderland Thunder.
Then following practice, the Tigers got to take part in a informal game with the Stars for the better part of an hour.
“It was really fun,” Hunter Calder, eight, enthused afterwards.
“I want to be an NHL player,” he added. “I learned that these guys are really, really good and they’re fast.”
“It was just excellent,” Tigers’ head coach Dave Taggart said with a smile. “The kids had a blast.
“The guys [Stars] have been absolutely A+ with the kids [and] Mr. Allison did a great job,” Taggart added. “They got to go in there and dress with them.
“They were welcomed right away.”
The opportunity to have the Stars visit Fort Frances came about as the team was making travel arrangements for a long four-game road trip.
The Stars were scheduled to play a weekend series against the Manitoba Moose before moving on to play the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday night.
Due to the circuitous route the club would be required to take to fly from Winnipeg to Grand Rapids, Mich., management asked Allison if the team wouldn’t mind taking a bus.
Allison agreed—based in large part on the prospect of spending a day off in his hometown.
Once his mother, Joan, who happens to head the special events committee for the Riverside Foundation for Health Care, found out the team would be in town, she immediately set to work arranging a fundraiser for the “Just Imagine” campaign.
“It was great coming here with the Times Tigers and it’s a great cause raising money for the [CT Scanner],” Allison remarked.
“It re-addresses where they’ve [the Stars] all come from—small towns and hopes and dreams,” he added. “I hope the kids had a good time and our guys really enjoyed it.
“It’s just nice to be able to show some of these kids . . . the talent level that is out there and the opportunities that are out there.
“The more you understand what is out there and what you have to do to get it, the more it’s yours,” Allison stressed.
But while Allison was thrilled to be able to help raise some money, he also was thankful to the community for being so hospitable to both him and his team during their brief stay here.
“It’s been great for us,” he enthused.
“Pinewood Sports was gracious enough with Al McTaggart to bring a couple of snowmachines out,” he noted. “Our guys got a chance to go snowmachining and some of them have never had that chance in their lives.
“It’s been nice for us to get away as a group.”
Allison’s thoughts were echoed by former first-round draft pick Mark Fistric. The 6’2”, 230-pound defenceman welcomed the opportunity to relax and get his mind off of hockey by spending time with the Tigers.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said of the experience. “It’s been a while since we were that age and at that level, but it’s good to come back and have a little fun.
“It’s a long season and to do something like this really gets our minds off of everything for a little while.
“It’s great to relax and have some fun with the kids.”
Fistric, who’s spent most of his life living in big cities, also relished the experience of visiting a small town.
“It’s a neat little town,” he remarked.
“I grew up in Edmonton, a pretty big city, and I played my junior career in Vancouver, another big city,” he noted. “Whenever I get to come to a small town, it’s definitely a great experience.
“It’s a great atmosphere in a small town like Fort Frances.”
Teresa Hazel, director of the Riverside Foundation for Health Care,
also was pleased with how the event unfolded.
“I thought it was a great day for the kids and for everyone who came out,” she said. “It was amazing to see how hard these guys work even in practice.”
Hazel thanked Allison and the Stars, as well as all the parents of the Times Tigers, for helping to make the event such a success.
“Everyone had a great experience,” she enthused.