Captain of the Kangaroos

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There’s no shortage of B.C. hockey players who have come up big on the world stage.

Goaltender Carey Price of the Ulkatcho First Nation earned his 14th consecutive win after backstopping Team Canada to a 2-1 victory over Team Europe in last month’s World Cup of Hockey final. “Burnaby Joe” Sakic wore the red maple leaf at seven different international tournaments, including leading the team to its first gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.  Shea Weber of Sicamous has patrolled the blue line for his home country seven times so far and won gold at six of them.

But one name that rarely comes up in discussions of the best British Columbian to appear on international ice is that of Glen Foll, who laced up his skates for no less than 80 games.

If you’ve never heard of him, it’s probably because he played for Australia.

Foll first began his hockey career playing in North Surrey Minor Hockey Association midget league. He went on to play for the Surrey Saints and later in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, bouncing around between a number of teams including the Vancouver Bluehawks, the Langley Eagles and the New Westminster Royals. But, like a lot of young Canadians do, he had the urge to go walkabout in his early twenties.

“It was either buying an RV and travelling around the U.S. with some buddies or go to Australia on holiday,” Foll, 54, said over the phone last week while back in town visiting family. “But then someone told me that they played hockey down there as well and so I asked the ice hockey federation for more information. They ended up sending me an overseas player form, which helped fast-track my work permit, which was a lot easier to get in those days, and I ended up playing on a team in the premier league.”

The 5’10” defenceman soon established himself as one of the top players with the Macquarie Bears (now known as the Sydney Bears) during his debut season Down Under and stayed with the team for several years while still returning to North America to play in the off-season.

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Glen Foll

But after being cut after a two-game tryout for the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League, he returned to Oz for good. Foll became the league’s leading scorer in the 1988-89 season, which coincided with his first appearance playing for the Australian national team, known as the Mighty Roos, in an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Group C tournament held at home in Sydney.

“I think it was probably the biggest crowds of any tournament I’ve played in, and lots of people came out to all the games, not just ours.”

The Roos lost all seven games but Foll was hooked. He went on to play in a total of 16 IIHF tourneys, ending his international playing career with a total of 22 goals, 46 points and one bronze medal after the Roos defeated Hungary 8-1 in the C division in 1992. Foll also holds the record for captaining the most world championships of any player with a total of 12 after first donning the C in 1990.

For most Australians, “hockey” means the far more popular sport of field hockey, where the national men’s team is currently ranked number one and the women’s team is in fourth place. (For comparison, the Canadian men’s field hockey team is ranked 12th place and the women 18th.) Anyone who has visited Whistler in recent years can attest that Australians have an affinity for winter sports, yet so far ice hockey has yet to catch on the same way as skiing or snowboarding has.

“It is a sport that is catching on but there aren’t a lot of arenas, and that dictates how much the sport can grow,” said Foll. “In Adelaide, the city where I live now, we only have one arena and this is a city of 1.2 million people. Nationwide, competing with public skating and then figure skating is our biggest competitors for ice time. In our arena, it’s broomball that is the big one.”

Foll said the sport is nonetheless making strides and pointed to the example of forward Nathan Walker, 22, a third round draft pick by the Washington Capitals in 2014 currently playing for their Hershey Bears AHL affiliate.

“He is the only true Australian who grew up playing hockey here to be drafted,” said Foll. “He wasn’t actually born in Australia, he was born in Wales but moved here when he was one-year-old or something.”

Oddly enough, while Foll has played the most games for Team Australia, the player with the most points also once skated on Surrey ice. Current Adelaide Adrenaline captain Greg Oddy, 36, of the eight-team Australian Ice Hockey League was briefly a member of the Surrey Eagles in his Junior A days. The 6″1′ centreman went on to earn 135 points as a member of the Mighty Roos over 14 years, donning their green and yellow jersey for the last time in 2012 playing in the IIHF Group B division, where the Aussies once again came in last place.

The Roos are currently ranked 36th, two places ahead of arch-rivals New Zealand and 35 spots behind Canada.

Although Foll never got to play for his adopted country at the Olympic level, he at least once got to see his homeland win gold on home ice. Foll, who now runs a sports store specializing in ice hockey gear and is frequently in Canada to pick up new equipment, was back in town for the 2010 Winter Games.

“My brother-in-law is the editor of a newspaper in Adelaide, and he was able to set me up as a correspondent,” said Foll, who remains active with the sport as both a coach and referee. “It was pretty amazing to be able to see so many of the big games. I was really lucky.”

While the press box may be as close as a captain of Team Australia ever gets to a Winter Olympics gold medal game, there’s always the chance if broomball somehow becomes an Olympic sport.

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Glen Foll stands between two unnamed Canadian hockey enthusiasts during the Vancouver Canucks 2011 Stanley Cup finals run.

(© Copyright (c) The Surrey Leader)

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Canucks fans are sick of all the Mess

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Another hockey season has begun and there seems to be much more meh in the air than usual. There’s probably a number of reasons fans don’t seem quite as fired up over the Canucks this year, including lingering bitterness over the unnecessary lockout, the equally unnecessary riot, management’s piss-poor treatment of Roberto Luongo and/or the stench from the disastrous John Tortorella experiment. Even the Green Men have gone AWOL from their usual seats next to the penalty box.

On the other hand, the team is on a winning streak. The twins are looking like their old telepathic selves again, there’s no goalie controversy (yet) and perennial fan favourite Trevor Linden is sort of back in charge. Heck, there’s even a new player who is named after Linden, and this has to count for something with the hockey gods. This could be the year the team doesn’t crush the city’s hopes and dreams for a Stanley Cup parade for the first time in history! When they unveiled the new slogan “Change is coming,” surely they didn’t just mean introducing craft beer at Rogers Arena.

The problem is that fans are probably just sick of all the Mess.

Unlike in most NHL cities, the majority of hockey fans in Vancouver can’t actually afford to go see their team play and instead have to watch games on TV. Which this year, now that Sportsnet has stolen broadcasting rights away from TSN and CBC like it was a loose puck in front of a dehydrated defenceman, means they are forced to see a lot of the enormous bald head of Mark Messier.

It’s tough to enjoy a game, even when the home team is winning, when the most despised sports figure in town keeps popping up on screen every few minutes either wearing a suit as an analyst between periods or wearing a too-small black leather jacket in annoying commercials for his new gig as an NHL ambassador.

Now, it’s true that this hate-on for the man is a uniquely B.C. thing. He’s a hall of famer who won a total of six Stanley Cups and is revered elsewhere across North America for his alleged “leadership skills.”

But for readers who didn’t watch much hockey back in the ’90s or think it is kind of un-Canadian for fans to not let bygones be bygones, here’s some backstory.

Messier can be forgiven for helping beat the Canucks in the finals back in ’94 when he was captain of the Rangers, and possibly even for viciously elbowing an injured, down-on-his knees Linden in the dying seconds of Game 6.

And it wouldn’t even be so bad that he was simply a huge disappointment during his three seasons in Vancouver, never once leading the team to the postseason despite earning $6 million a year, at the time one of the highest salaries in the league.

The problem is he stripped the “C” from Linden and then helped get him traded while poisoning the dressing room. He also got the popular Pat Quinn run out of town. He insisted on wearing number 11 on his jersey despite the team having retired it in honour of former star player Wayne Maki, who died of brain cancer in 1974 while still in his prime. He continued to act like a superstar even though he no longer played like one and was considered far too cozy with the widely disliked new GM and coach Mike Keenan, who traded away a number of heart-and-soul players. Adding insult to injury, after he was cut loose as an unrestricted free agent, he went back to Broadway and promptly put up a 67-point season at age 40 as if to rub our noses in it. And adding insult to that, two years ago he sued the team over a clause in his contract that would allow him to profit from any increase in the franchise’s value and was handed yet another unearned $6 million.

Mark Messier is basically Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future movies and Canucks fans are George McFly, only there’s no time machine invented yet that will allow Michael J. Fox to come save us from him.

(© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)

Bettman and Robbin’

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Although nobody likes a sore loser, apart from maybe physiotherapists,  the armchair athletes of Team K&K nonetheless feel obliged to gripe for the sake of posterity about the egregious officiating in the Canucks recent first round exit from the playoffs.
The San Jose Sharks were given a total of 24 power play chances to the home team’s meagre 10 during the series, and it has to be said that more than just a few of Vancouver’s penalties were of the bogus variety, including the decisive one in sudden death of Game 4 for boarding handed to Daniel Sedin (of all people) after cleanly bumping shoulder-to-shoulder into Tommy Wingels.
For good measure, the refs handed him another penalty for “abusive language” when it was all over and he angrily called shenanigans.
While obviously the referees aren’t entirely to blame for the Canucks’ latest heart-breaking collapse, it sure often seemed like they didn’t want to risk doing anything that might displease the people in head office who pay their hefty salaries.
Let’s face it, the NHL is a multi-billion dollar business that has badly shot itself in the foot with the third  lockout in less than 20 years. It’s a given that American teams advancing over Canadian squads is better for the self-sabotaged league’s bottom line considering that, in the U.S. market, easily as many people would rather, say, tune in to see NASCAR drivers turning left for hours on end or greased-up “professional wrestlers” pretending to fight each other than watch large, armoured men wearing knife-boots do actual battle on ice. They’re funny that way.
Here in Canada, video footage of a local team partying with Chris Brown, beating up taxi drivers or even hanging out at a Westboro Baptist Church rally could go viral and they would probably still be able to fill the home stands night after night.
The Sharks, who have to compete against four other, more profitable major league sports franchises all within the San Francisco Bay area, not so much.

(This post was first published in Kudos & Kvetches  © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)

Bieksa and Kesler take it to the streets

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Vancouver residents finally got to see the Canucks in action downtown this week — or at least one of them in action, although it was more than enough to make the crowd happy.

Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler and team newcomer Jason Garrison stopped by the basketball court at Coopers Park in Yaletown Wednesday (Dec. 5) afternoon for a spontaneous ball hockey game that was first announced by Kesler via Twitter only a few hours earlier. Close to 200 fans turned out to watch a makeshift Team Bieksa take on Team Kesler, although only Bieksa played alongside the enthusiastic fans while his two injured teammates instead chose to “officiate” the game in the loosest sense of the word.

“Every time we are talking hockey lately, it has been serious and [about] the CBA and all of that,” Bieksa told a throng of assembled reporters on Day 81 of the NHL lockout. “We’re just going back to our roots with a fun road hockey game in the pouring rain.”

Spandex-clad superfans Sully and Force, better known as the Green Men, were among those who came out to play and were hand-picked by Bieksa to join his team. Apparently the Canucks alternate captain wasn’t aware of just how poorly these former Rogers Arena regulars can actually see through their masks.

“I hope we’re not making a big mistake here because it is pretty much impossible to see through these things,” Sully (or possibly Force) told the Courier shortly before the game. “It would be awesome if we went out there and totally dominated, but with my luck I’ll probably accidentally take out Kesler and hurt his shoulder again or something.”

Green men Sully and Force had a chance to throw on their spandex for the first time in months.
Green men Sully and Force had a chance to throw on their spandex for the first time in months. (Dan Toulgoet photo)

Instead, the game’s most dominant player was, unsurprisingly, Kevin Bieksa, who scored the game’s first goal and added a second shortly afterward.

“Man, he is so fast, I didn’t even see it coming,” said goaltender Brendan Bearkoff, who was nonetheless praised by Kesler for keeping his team in the game after his defensemen repeatedly left him out to dry.

Kevin Bieksa offers some pointers to a young girl before the shootout.
Kevin Bieksa offers some pointers to a young girl before the shootout.(Dan Toulgoet photo)

Despite one side sporting a professional player in their ranks, the game nonetheless went to overtime after being tied 4-4. Highlights of the shootout, eventually won by Bieksa’s side, included a pretty goal by a dramatically slimmed down Mark Donnelly (who earlier once again led the crowd in singing the national anthem), a narrow miss by a man in a wheelchair, and another nice goal by a  semi-blind Green Man after his partner in lime shamelessly distracted Bearkoff with some of the duo’s signature dance moves.

While the game was all in good fun, some fans couldn’t help but be reminded of what they were missing due to the ongoing lockout.

“This is pretty cool and all and good for them for coming out to do this but it also seems like a little bit of a PR move,” said SFU undergrad Asif Khan. “It’s not as if the [NHL team] owners have a chance to come out and do something to make the fans maybe more on their side, although I suppose if they did they would probably want to charge people.”

Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs would agree on the need for real hockey. Inspired by a similar move by the city of Ottawa, Meggs has tabled a motion for council’s meeting on Tuesday directing Mayor Gregor Robertson to write to both the NHL and the players’ union urging them to resolve their labour dispute before the season is lost. The motion notes that the Canucks generate an estimated $100 million in annual revenue with spinoff benefits for Vancouver’s economy and that the loss of the entire season would affect thousands of jobs in the city.

© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

Glory for Vancouver’s Green Men

Sully and Force are headed for ESPN’s Hall of Fans. (Dan Toulgoet photo)

Fans of infamous Canucks fans the Green Men have helped get the dynamic duo inducted into the ESPN Hall of Fans. Spandex-clad sports enthusiasts Sully and Force will be formally recognized for their tireless and highly creative efforts in taunting players stuck in the penalty box after it was announced on Wednesday the masked men made the cut for the newly minted hall of fame for fans.

Several thousand sports fans applied for consideration and only 10 finalists were selected by judges. An open online vote was then held to determine the hall’s first three members, which instead turned out to be four. Although only Sully is listed as a finalist (along with University of Alabama softball supporter Emily Pitek and the Baltimore Ravens devotee known as Captain Dee-Fense), both Green Men will in fact be attending the contest’s inaugural ceremony in Bristol, Connecticut on Sept. 19.

“We’re being inducted as a duo,” Sully (or possibly Force) assured the Courier via Twitter. “The contest is for individuals so they are still figuring out how to bend the rules for us.”

Along with entertaining fans and irritating the likes of Dustin Byfuglien and Brad Marchand (not to mention Don Cherry). the Green Men have also raised over $15,000 for local charities. The two were both the only Canadians and only hockey fans to make the final round.

© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

Overtime Heroes

Sim Sunner and former Team Canada Danielle Dubé take a breather during the Longest Game 4 CF. (Dan Toulgoet photo)

Danielle Dubé knows a thing or two about what it’s like play in big hockey games.

As a goalie for Team Canada, she has helped win her country four gold medals, including a four-game home ice sweep in Richmond at the 1996 IIHF Women’s Pacific Rim Championship, and silver at the Nagano Olympics. The 35-year-old mother of two has held her own scrimmaging with NHL players and, nine years ago while playing for the Long Beach Ice Dogs in the now-defunct West Coast Hockey League, she became only the third female puckstopper in history to start between the pipes for a men’s pro league game.

Her biggest game, however, was literally the most epic one to date.

Dubé is one of 40 women who hit the ice early in the morning Aug. 26 at Canlan Ice Sports Burnaby 8 Rinks attempting to set a new Guinness World Record for playing the longest continuous hockey game. Playing four-on-four on rotating four-hour shifts and divided into Team White and Team Red, the women are calling the rink home for 10 days as they battle it out during what is essentially a giant overtime minus the chance of ending it in sudden death.

The existing exhausting record of 242 hours was set by a group of men (and one woman) last February at the northern Alberta homestead of the Edmonton Oilers’ inhouse optometrist, Brent Saik. Not only do these woman want to beat the men, they are hoping to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis (CF) while they are at it.

“If not the biggest game, it’ll certainly be the longest and the most memorable for sure,” says Dubé as she prepared for the time spent either inside the rink or asleep in one of several cramped campers housing the players in the rink’s parking lot they’ve dubbed RV World. “Unlike some of the girls here, I don’t have personal experience with CF, but the opportunity came up and hockey has given me a lot. I’ve travelled the world and done all sorts of stuff, and this was just an amazing chance to give something back. As a mother, I can imagine how awful it is for children and it’s a great cause to be able to play for.”

CF is the most common and deadliest genetic disease affecting Canadian children and young adults. Suffering with CF is commonly described as like drowning on the inside and most don’t make it past the age of 30. A degenerative disease that destroys the lungs and digestive system, it requires multiple daily medications and physical therapy.

The Longest Game 4 CF is the brainchild of Vallerie Skelly, a 43-year-old sales manager for a Ford dealership in Richmond who also plays centre for the Thunder A in the local Duffers Hockey League. Raising funds and awareness to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis seems to be something that’s in her own family genes-her father Bill has helped raise about $50 million through decades of work with the Kinsmen Club of Canada.

Her own first experience with the disorder came as a teenager working at a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation summer camp, and it profoundly changed her life. “I met a girl there named Lucia and she was about 18 years old,” says the Team White captain moments before the ceremonial puck drop. “We became very good friends. She unfortunately died at the age of 27 of CF. I told her I was going to do something big some day and this is what I came up with.”

Val Skelly screening Danielle Dubé. (Dan Toulgoet photo)

Skelly says her friend taught her to appreciate the value of every moment and every breath, and she wanted to finally do something “truly epic” to help make CF instead stand for “cure found.” Being a good Canadian, she figured what better way to garner attention towards a little understood respiratory disease than through a lung-busting hockey marathon. She got in touch with the parents of Eva Markvoort, a vibrant young woman who recently passed away from CF and who has become the pretty face of an ugly disease.

Ironically, the stunning beauty whose image adorns the Longest Game 4 CF campaign posters and other promotional material was never much of a hockey fan.

“She wasn’t what you’d call much of a sports person,” says her mother, Janet Brine, while watching the game with her husband Bill and daughter Annie. “We tried to get her involved in sports really early because it was really good for her physically, but it just wasn’t her thing. She was really much more interested in the arts.”

Markvoort, a former Miss New Westminster and theatre major at the University of Victoria, was instead passionate about acting. Frustrated that she wasn’t landing many roles due to the fact many directors had concerns about casting someone whose health issues could potentially pose problems (a coughing fit, for example, in the middle of a monologue), she ended up starring in the story of her own life and, sadly, her own death.

The locally shot documentary 65_RedRoses follows her struggles as she desperately waits for a double lung transplant. The film, co-directed by her friends Nimisha Mukerji and Philip Lyall, became a hit on the international film festival circuit.

But while the film exposed her to a worldwide audience, many more people got to know her further through her highly personal blog of the same name. (The term “65 roses” is common shorthand in CF circles because of a child’s famous mispronunciation of the disease, and Markvoort, a romantic who frequently dyed her hair bright red, picked 65_RedRoses to be her online handle.) As a seeming added cruelty, CF patients aren’t allowed to spend time together for fear of sharing infections, and so Markvoort turned to the Internet for distraction and comfort, where she formed many close relationships with other young people living with the condition.

Her LiveJournal page also became an unexpected hit, with hundreds of thousands of people across the globe visiting the site to share her fearless descriptions of a life spent coping with the disease.

In the end, it was through a video posting on her website where, surrounded by family and loved ones, Markvoort announced she would soon be dying after her body rejected her new lungs two years after receiving them. A few days later, in February 2010, she passed away at the age of just 25.

Her family manages to draw a bit of solace that her memory lives on through a variety of fundraising and organ donation awareness campaigns.

“For a young person, she was very conscious about wanting to leave a stamp and have her life not be forgotten,” says Brine. “We miss her every single day, but this really is pretty amazing. Here we are today and she’s still a huge part of trying to put an end to CF. It’s just wonderful.”

It’s almost impossible to have had a glimpse into Eva Markvoort’s too short life and not be moved by it. Fortunately, plenty of people are also moved into action.

Sim Sunner, for example, decided to swap her figure skates for hockey skates when she heard about plans for the game. “I transitioned just over a year ago, so you might see the occasional twirl or some of the old Mighty Ducks moves from me out there,” she says with a laugh.

Sunner was fresh out of nursing school when she began working at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the largest CF care facility in North America. Being around the same age as most of the patients there, she inevitably became friends with many of them.

“I’ve seen them suffer, I’ve seen the pager that is always next to them and I’ve prayed with them for it to go off because that means they can get a lung transplant,” says Sunner, who now works in the intensive care unit at St. Paul’s Hospital. “I knew everything about their lives, they knew everything about mine, and they would be there sometimes for months at a time. It was very difficult when one of them would pass away, just like it would be for any young person whose friends would die. They are the reason I’m doing this.”

By Day 5, the game was already pretty much out of hand, with Team White leading Team Red 491 to 326 when the Courier checked in. (Although some would say the 165-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey.) The original plan was to have Dubé in net to make up for less experienced players on Team Red like Sunner, but she had surgery on one of her fingers two days before the game and was unable to continue in net because of the pain. “She just wasn’t able to stop herself from going after the puck with one hand,” says volunteer and longtime hockey fan Desneige Meyers. “The score is pretty ridiculous right now, but then again the score isn’t what’s important here.”

What is important to Meyers is finding a cure for her two-year-old son, Beckett. A professional artist, Meyers has created a heartbreakingly large sculpture on display upstairs at the rink that incorporates all the syringes, plungers and empty pill containers that have kept her young son alive. She has already lost one child, her second, from complications due to prenatal testing to see if the baby girl had her brother’s illness.

“She passed away the day she was born and since then my marriage fell apart as well,” says Meyers. “I’m sure we’re not the only people who have those kinds of stories, but we are willing to share them if it will help find a cure.”

Artist Desneige Meyers displays one year’s worth of her son Beckett’s medication. (Dan Toulgoet photo)

Despite his frailty, Beckett is pulling his own weight around the rink by helping keep the players motivated.

“We’re having a few players who are starting to get a little bit down, particularly on the Red team,” says Meyers. “We stopped by the dressing room as they were icing their wounds and taping their blisters and looking exhausted. As soon as he walked in, everybody just lit up. He was running around giving them high fives and it seemed to perk them up-they went right out again and scored three goals. We also spent a little time on the bench yesterday and the girls were always really excited when they’d come off their shifts to hang out with him. He’s a big cheerleader, Beckett is.”

The weary women of the Longest Game 4 CF expect to finally put down their sticks Sept. 5 at 11: 05 a.m., which would beat the record by precisely, and appropriately, 65 minutes.

Financial donations to the cause can be made at the rink itself or online at longestgame4cf.com, while more drastic but equally important donations can be arranged at transplant.bc.ca. A lot of people will probably breathe much easier if you do.

(This story was first published Sept. 3, 2011. © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)

Five Hole for Food aim for the breadbasket

The last time Vancouver hosted a hockey game downtown, the event didn’t exactly bring out the best in a lot of people, with millions of dollars in damages and more than a hundred people sent to the hospital after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins.

A local non-profit group is expecting the opposite on Saturday when Granville Street will once be overrun with hockey enthusiasts.

Three makeshift ball hockey courts will be set up in 800-block near Robson Street for the second annual Five Hole for Food cross-country tour, a food drive launched last year by Simon Fraser University students who play street hockey in major cities to bring in donations for local food banks.

Five Hole for Food founder and Canucks.com blogger Richard Loat. (Dixon Tam photo)

Five Hole founder Richard Loat admitted the chance to rehab his home city’s somewhat battered and bruised image has been an added bonus to this year’s road trip, which will see him and teammates Victor Lo and Jonathan Buyco play in13 cities over 17 days.

“I think it is important that we are sort of quote-unquote rehabbing Vancouver’s image,” said Loat, a fourth year communications major better known by his Twitter handle @mozy19 and through his work as a blogger for Canucks.com.

“Leaving town, we said to each other we’re the first ambassadors of Vancouver since that black mark and having the opportunity to represent the city across the country has been tremendous. The first question everyone asks when they hear where we’re from is, ‘Oh, how were the riots?’

“Once we push that aside, people perk up to the fact we’re a bunch of Vancouver guys driving across the country helping not only our community but those across Canada.”

But while helping to repair the city’s rep in the eyes of the country is all well and good, it pales in comparison to the real goal of putting food on the plates of the less fortunate. While food banks need support year-round, that need is especially high during the summer months.

Loat, 22, said the group, which received assists from social media buzz, corporate sponsorship and a veritable small army of volunteers, has already raised nearly four times the amount of food from last year’s hastily organized tour that saw them play ball hockey in nine cities.

The FHFF team were given the chance to play on the helicopter pad of the ferry between Newfoundland and Cape Breton. (Dixon Tam photo)

“Last year was really just kind of a pilot,” Loat said over the phone from Alberta. “This year we set a goal of 20,000 pounds of food and now, heading into Calgary with four stops to go, we’ve already raised 23,000 pounds.”

Five Hole for Food accepts online donations as well. Cash and non-perishable food items will be accepted in person at the event itself, where anyone who’s game can join in and play.

Loat expects the opening 1 p.m. Vancouver street hockey game to draw a variety of politicos, minor celebrities and media personalities.

As for Loat, he’s looking to putting his own stick down again nearly three weeks after he dipped it into the Atlantic Ocean, just as another young and local athletic philanthropist, Terry Fox, did years before him.

“We’re averaging something like four or five hours of sleep a night, if that,” said Loat. “It’s been physically gruelling and mentally gruelling. I’m pretty much living on adrenaline and I’m expecting to crash pretty much the moment I pick up the ball in the last second of the Vancouver game.”

(This story was first published July 8, 2011. © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)