Monday, August 25, 2008

Anaheim Duck star comes back to Calgary to support team

It’s not often something like this happens. In fact, in the Western Hockey League, it may be the first time – where a current NHL player comes back to partner with his junior hockey team to give back to the community.

Anaheim Ducks’ star forward Ryan Getzlaf came to Calgary August 25, 2008 to announce his partnership with the Calgary Hitmen Hockey Club, which by the way, is owned by the Calgary Flames.

The new venture is called Getzlaf’s Gang, and what it does is bring kids to a junior hockey game who may never otherwise get to go. Getzlaf will select the kids himself and each will receive a Getzlaf Gang t-shirt and autographed eight by ten picture of the Ducks’ number 15. Kids Up Front, with the support of Telus, will invite kids from low income families, immigrant families, and also those with mental and physical challenges.

“I never went to a lot of games when I was young,” says Getzlaf. “It’s a way to promote hockey and let kids come to the games to see what it’s about and hopefully inspire some of them to play.”

Getzlaf played with the Hitmen for four seasons from 2001-02 to 2004-05, scoring 215 points in 233 regular season games.

“This is an organization and community that helped me so much. When I have all that I have, it’s a way to give back. I wouldn’t be here today without this city or this team.”

He also states that junior hockey doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves and could use the help. The Hitmen already notice the increase in interest in the team as a result.

“You can do all the donating and stuff you want,” adds Getzlaf, “but until you get on that personal level where the kids maybe get to meet you, that’s where the kids really benefit from it.”

Given all the accolades and hype that media and hockey insiders are giving this young star, one might ask, is the Getzlaf Gang also a way to keep himself grounded? “You could say that. It’s definitely a way to kind of relate back to what things used to be like and how hard it is to get to where I am. There were a lot of people along the way that pushed me along and helped me, whether I thought so at the time or not.

“(On the hype) I don’t listen. Hockey’s a funny sport because when you’re on top, everyone’s on top with you. And I’ve gone through the tough times, too, where people are down on you for certain things. My main focus is to play hockey for the Anaheim Ducks and try and win another championship.”

After already experiencing a Stanley Cup under his belt, the summer was much longer than he would have liked, but Getzlaf has high hopes for the upcoming season. “We’re going into a pretty good year and have a great group of guys. We filled a few holes that we were missing last year.”

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