After 35 years under the KFC banner, the tournament was renamed this year for their friend and colleague, Mike Schmitt. On Wednesday, the two representatives from the Mike Schmitt Memorial Tournament’s host teams were at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre to hand over donations gathered for a special cause.
The event raised $580 for We Care About Cancer, a fund helping Colchester County cancer patients deal with finances during treatment.
“(This has been) huge,” said Raj Makkar, who is involved with both the tournament and the fund. “First of all, I think it’s awesome that these kids and the minor hockey association are aware of the fund now. For me, that’s huge awareness, so now we can help even more people. And it’s nice to see kids involved with it in that way, too. It’s awesome.”
Two years ago when Raj Makkar helped start the We Care About Cancer fund he had a special friend in mind.
“That was when Mike was diagnosed with cancer, so there was even more motivation for me on my part,” he said. “It’s very difficult and challenging going through that (diagnosis), and then on top of it having to worry about your kids, your family, your medication or your travel.”
The tournament name change was made public in November, and generated interest quickly from the provincial hockey community. Schmitt, a volunteer with the local association, was known all over Nova Scotia as a dedicated hockey coach and father.
“We actually had teams who came forward but it was too late,” Archibald said. “Once we changed the name, we had teams expressed interest who hadn’t really thought about it, but when the name came it was like, ‘Oh, Mike.’”
The local teams played with purple hockey tape on their sticks – the colour of the pancreatic cancer awareness ribbons. As a show of solidarity, several teams from outside Truro showed up also sporting purple tape. “That’s how much he meant to hockey in Nova Scotia,” Johnstone said.
The funds were raised by the ‘Buy a Player’ initiative through the first two days of the tournament. There will be a further donation at a later date, from tickets being sold on an autographed Sidney Crosby jersey donated by Schmitt’s former employer.
Archibald and Johnstone also thanked their sponsors, including Sobeys, Subway, Bike Monkey and the former namesake, KFC.
“Even though we changed the name, they stepped in,” Archibald said. “They still gave us coupons for our MVPs. They still gave us money. They were very supportive of that change.”
Moving on without his good friend has been tough, but Makkar said Schmitt will always be in mind when working with the charity and with minor hockey.
“It’s pretty tough, but we’re very fortunate to have great people involved with the association, like Andrea and Kim,” he said. “There are great coaches as well. The hockey community – that’s exactly what it is. It’s a community of friends and family members, people you’re going to have forever.”