The NHL vs Docs for NEO Kids hockey game is fast-approaching, as a group of NHL players and local physicians will take the ice at the Sudbury Community Arena on Aug. 11.
The event is in its fourth year and has raised approximately $440,000 for NEO Kids, with a goal of raising an additional $200,000 this year.
Nick Foligno and brother Marcus were at the Sudbury Arena Wednesday morning for a kick off - or faceoff - to play a game of road hockey with some Sudbury youngsters and get the buzz going for the big game that's just one month away.
The Foligno brothers were joined by local physicians Dr. Andre Michon and Dr. Paul Gibb for the game Wednesday, and Michon might be as excited, if not more, than the kids for the game next month.
"Put it this way, I'm not suffering at all taking the ice with these guys," said Michon with a laugh. "It's not like it's a 10 km run in the summer or anything like that. It's a joy to be on the ice with these guys and it's humbling when you see just how good they are up close."
This year's roster of NHL players who will make their way to Sudbury are Nick and Marcus Foligno, John Tavares, Matt Duchene, Marc Staal, Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson, Brandon Dubinsky, Pierre Luc Dubois, Scott Harrington, Anthony Duclair, Tyler Bertuzzi and Damien Giroux.
In its first year, the NHL vs Docs game was mainly made up of local NHLers and a small handful of Nick Foligno's Columbus Blue Jackets teammates, but has grown in leaps and bounds to include players from around the league, including some superstar talent like John Tavares.
"I'm always impressed by hockey players and how generous they are with their time," said Nick Foligno.
"I called up John Tavares because I heard he had some family up here and he was on board right away. Matt Duchene and I played together and he's from Haliburton so he gets it, he knows what life is in smaller Northern communities. Marc Staal spent a number of years up here playing for the Wolves; having these guys be able to come up here and make this event what it is, it's great."
Michon praised the work of Foligno, who in partership with Dr. Sean Murray, helped launch what has become one of the can't miss events of the summer in Sudbury.
"Dr. Murray and Nick had this great idea to advocate for kids and as physicians it just seemed like a no brainer to get on board with this," said Michon.
"NEO Kids has been raising money tirelessly to get this hospital up and running. This is something that we can't afford to build on our own so with the number of events the foundation puts on, including this one, it's a big step toward our goal. I can't really say enough about the Foligno family, they're setting such a great example and we're just trying to emulate them and follow in their footsteps."
The NHLers will be available for an autograph signing session at 12 p.m. at the arena on Aug. 11, while attendees enjoy a BBQ and activities that will get underway at 11:30 a.m. outside the main entrance.
During the game, one lucky fan will have the chance to "shoot to win" a Palladino BMW, courtesy of Palladino Auto Group. Fans can also purchase a "chuck a plane" for their chance to win a private meet and greet in the NHL change room following the game.
The game itself will consist of two 15-minute periods, followed by a 20-minute period of NHL vs NHL action.
Following the game, NEO Kids Foundation will be hosting an evening with NHL legends - a VIP reception with the opportunity to mix and mingle with the NHLers. The evening was introduced at last year's event and has evolved into a more social event for the fans to enjoy.
"Last year we did a night with the NHL legends in a hot stove format where they shared stories and it was great," said Foligno. "This year we're going with something a bit more casual, it's not every day that the fans can mingle and rub elbows with a room full of NHL players."
That event will be held at Respect is Burning and tickets are $125 per person.
Tickets for the game are $22 and proceeds from both the game and the evening event will go towards NEO Kids Foundation.
For tickets to the game visit the Sudbury Community Arena box office, or visit greatersudbury.ca/tickets. For tickets to the evening event, click here.