by Jay Piz
"Thank you again one and all for helping to make the 4th annual Give Blood Play Hockey Inline Hockey Charity Tournament event so very special and an event you can be proud of to say you helped," said event founder Mary Quayle during a phone interview on her holiday trip back to Southern California. Mary, a student at Penn State, is returning to be with family over the holiday and to attend the Nov. 20th Thank You party held for the event's many volunteers and sponsors.
The 4th annual Give Blood Play Hockey weekend event and tournament was recently held at Irvine's 949 Roller Hockey Center and was attended by over 2,000 spectators and included 82 teams in 18 divisions comprised of local Ice and Roller Hockey players and their teams. In a showing of community support and for charity sake, together they helped to contribute 197 pints of live saving blood and fundraise net proceeds of $47,000 for CHOC Children's Hospital all while enjoying the carnival-like environment and family-oriented fun that is so much a part of this unique event. Now ranked among the largest inline hockey tournaments on the west coast, the event has garnered solid support from the Anaheim Ducks, the City of Irvine, a growing list of corporate sponsors, major hockey suppliers and the media for the many causes it promotes.
While the competitions ran practically non-stop from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, many attendees participated in the marquis events on Saturday.
First up in the schedule was a touching tribute to Casey Strale and Strale family's ordeal over this past year and giving new meaning to the power of what can be accomplished when you "believe!" Strale’s story captured much attention in the media and in the hockey community, both locally and nationally. Ducks cancer survivors Jason Blake and Saku Koivu presented Strale with an autographed hockey stick last May during his recovery process while the Ducks’ Teemu Selanne made a personal visit to Children's Hospital of Orange County during one of Casey’s darker days. Casey has slowly returned in his recovery from late last spring to first donning a pair of skates in the late spring to now getting back on his game and his health. A smile-filled, bright-eyed young man who humbly shares his spirit with everyone and plays like he's just like any other kid on the rink.
Emceed by Nicholas Gismondi, an Associate Producer of Universal Sports Network, Gismondi introduced City of Irvine's Mayor Sukhee Kang who praised the Strale's and the event's community spirit in his address followed then by Dale Quayle, Master of Ceremonies for this tribute. Dale delivered a heart-warming speech about Casey calling him, "His new hero!" Before Casey and the Strale family entered to rink, Dale introduced a 5 minute video produced by Andy Halbeck of AndyArt Photography which brought home the story of the Strale family over this last year to the crowd. Wild Wing and Ducks' Power Player cheerleaders joined in while Casey's former teammates from the Plaza Vista middle school roller hockey team gave a rousing stick salute as the Strale family entered the rink and addressed the audience of hundreds gathered in the grandstands on and off the rink surface.
Gismondi then turned the crowd's attention to the Revision Hockey sponsored Skillz For A Cause contest. Included in the youth groups was, you guessed it, Casey Strale. Casey went on to win the best shot portion of the skills contest with his "mission" move. He not only wowed the crowd by this perfected trick shot, he went on to win each of the 14U four skills contests sending an inspiring message that you can accomplish anything.
Following the contests of skills was a dance performance by the Aliso Niguel Drill team. The drill team along with Wild Wing and Ducks' Power Player then formed to introduce the Rink Rat Hockey-sponsored 2nd annual Wheelchair Roller Exhibition featuring the athletes from Rancho Wheelchair Sports. A crowd-pleasing, tournament style exhibition of full contact wheelchair roller hockey ensued as the amazing athletes marveled the fans in the grandstands and nearly every inch of available space at the glass.
Following the on-rink events the crowds then re-focused their attention to the exhibit where Anaheim Ducks' Radio Play-by-play broadcaster Steve Carroll introduced and interviewed special guests, NHL Anaheim Ducks' Bobby Ryan and Kyle Chipchura. Bobby and Kyle exchanged turned speaking and answering questions from the audience. The guests also shared the stage in a short interview with Casey Strale and even being interviewed by Mater Dei High School student and blogger Gaby Martinez. Fans of all ages crowded the exhibit to have their favorite gear or poster autographed by these hockey celebrities. No fan was left without a smile or fond memory from this stop during the Ducks' Rink Tour Speaking Series at The 949 Roller Hockey Center.
The annual Give Blood Play Hockey tournament has truly come of age becoming a notable event and a fixture in the Southern California hockey community. From fun competitions between the teams on the rinks and their way to the podium to the fun on the midway and raffle tables, the Give Blood Play Hockey event stands alone as both a fundraiser and must-attend event.
"The Hockey With A Heart spirit of this event not only touches the ice & inline hockey community, it also embraces cancer-surviving and wheelchair athletes as part of our collective whole," said event media director Jay Piz.
Scheduled for later this year, Give Blood Play Hockey founder Mary Quayle will be presenting a ceremonial check in the amount of $100,000 to CHOC Children's to fulfill the event's pledge to fund an Oncology Patient Care Room being constructed in the new wing of the hospital.
"Oh. And we'll be back again in 2011!," says Piz. Save the dates: October 21-23, 2011.
More information about this unique fundraising tournament, including tournament results, pictures and links to sponsors, can be found by visiting their web site at: www.GIVEBLOODPLAYHOCKEY.org
, or joining them on Facebook at: http://tinyurl.com/GBPH-Facebook