Joan Hall, Bruce MacDonald and Gerry Fagan go through a photo album from the early days of the Alberni Golf Club Charity Golf Classic as they prepare for the 2018 tournament. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Alberni Golf Classic has long, strong history with NHL officials

Founder Rob Shick proud of tourney’s longevity, will play in July 7 event

When retired National Hockey League referee Rob Shick was approached to put on a golf tournament in his hometown of Port Alberni, little was he to know his eponymous tourney would still be going strong 25 years later. He looks back with fondness on the 25th anniversary of the charity golf classic played at Alberni Golf Course—this year, happening on Saturday, July 7.

Shick was involved with the NHL Officials Association in the early 1990s, which organized a charitable golf tournament in a different location every year. Shick was asked to host one on the west coast, and the first annual Rob Shick Charity Golf Classic happened in the summer of 1994.

He gathered an organizing committee that included former Alberni Golf Course head pro Bruce MacDonald, Denny Grisdale, Bob Waldhaus, Ron Erickson and Olga Kanigan. “We sat (in the golf club) and really started to plan it, and I walked out and thought ‘wow, what was I thinking,’” Shick recalls.

READ: Alberni charity golf tournament turns 25

“This is one of the longest standing charity golf tournaments running in the province,” said MacDonald (only retired NHL star and new head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes Rod Brind’Amour’s tournament has been running longer, in Campbell River, and MacDonald helped start that one too).

“It had a great start; (Shick) was so popular that we had a double shotgun start.”

That first year, 15 NHL referees and linesmen came to support the tournament. Since then, many NHL and other sports stars have played in the tourney, like former Vancouver Canucks Darcy Rota, BJ MacDonald, Richard Brodeur, Kirk McLean, Orland Kurtenbach, and Ernie “Punch” McLean, former Boston Bruins’ Doug Bodger, former B.C. Lions Al Wilson and John Blain. “We even had the Irish Rovers (musicians) play one year,” Bruce MacDonald said.

Even actor Jackson Davies has played the tournament. This year, Shick is joined by former NHL player Dave Babych, who works behind the scenes with the Vancouver Canucks.

Media stars like former Canuck play-by-play announcer Jim Robson, Bernie Pascall, Jim Houston, the late Neil McRae and now Mira Laurence from Rogers Sportsnet and Jason Pires from CTV, who will both be back this year.

Nowadays, there are 155 players and registration has already filled up more than a week before the July 7 event. There is a waiting list of two dozen names so far.

The tournament is full of fun events, prizes on many of the holes, a ‘Wine or Whine’ event, silent and live auctions.

The tournament was changed from Shick’s name to the Alberni Charity Golf Classic many years ago, but Shick is still involved. He comes back every year from his home in Florida to play in the tourney and lend his support to the organizers— many of whom are still involved.

Over the years the tournament has helped more than 35 Alberni Valley-based charities, and always donates a portion of proceeds to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Shick is happy to see that tradition continue, as visiting children and seniors in hospitals is something NHL officials have always done.

The benefit to having a children’s hospital available to families was brought home to him in 2013, when his six-year-old niece Danika was diagnosed with a cancerous glioblastoma, or brain tumour. Only 18 months after her diagnosis, she passed away, but not before receiving “phenomenal” care at a children’s hospital in San Diego, Calif., he said.

Shick said the tournament has raised close to $900,000 since its inception, and he’s proud that it is still going strong.

“Our goal is to keep it going as long as the community supports it.”

The tournament will feature as much fun as there is golf.

For more information on the event, call Joan Hall at 250-724-6163, Bruce MacDonald at 250-735-9669 or Lee Anne VanLent at 250-723-7111.

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