Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hillier Brings Stanley Cup and Former NHL'ers to Afghanistan

What a Great Morale Boost! A Big HUA for Hillier and the NHL!
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
He's everywhere. Last week in Petawawa at a homecoming for Roto 2- today Afghanistan.
Canada's chief of defence staff, Gen. Rick Hillier, arrived in Afghanistan Wednesday with former NHL players and the Stanley Cup.

Hiller arrived at the main Kandahar base with the former pros, who included Bob Probert, Dave (Tiger) Williams, Ron Tugnutt, Rejean Houle and Yvon Lambert.
Former NHL tough guys Williams, Probert and Maguire played in some hostile venues over the years, but none like this.

The three ex-NHLers are part of a entourage that arrived today for a week-long tour of Afghanistan, a trip that is scheduled to feature a ball-hockey game versus the troops.

"We're supposed to play the winners of their tournament," Maguire said. "Mostly, we're going to help lift the spirits of the soldiers.
"I was in the military myself for three years, so I jumped at the opportunity to go over there and say thank you to the troops."

The group of 32 also includes NHL alumni Mark Napier, Stew Gavin, Ron Tugnutt, Lou Franceschetti, Ric Seiling and Dan Daoust; Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment; a representative of the Vancouver Canucks ownership group; and veteran broadcaster Brian Williams, now with TSN.

The endeavour has the blessing of the NHL.
"We thought it would be a great way to show our appreciation for all they do for us every day to protect our freedoms and safeguard our way of life," NHL vice president Bill Daly said via e-mail, referring to the troops.

"It is these people who really are the real-life heroes."
Maguire said the idea for the trip came up in the regular season when the Maple Leafs honoured a number of military members before a game at the Air Canada Centre.
Along with showing off the Stanley Cup, the group plans to play some hockey with some of the more than 2,000 Canadian soldiers stationed at the base.

Last month, the owner of the Ottawa Senators visited the base, donating $50,000 worth of hockey gear. Eugene Melnyk brought hockey sticks, pads and jerseys for the soldiers.
Playing and watching ball hockey is an important ritual for the Canadian troops in Afghanistan, with the teams playing for the Kandahar Cup, a pint-sized version of Lord Stanley's coveted trophy.
Playoffs are to begin this month, when temperatures in Kandahar climb well into the 40s

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