Downey brothers ready bring the House down
"We wanted to do something for the kids."
That is why Stanley Cup champion and former Collingwood Blues forward Aaron Downey teamed up with his brother Trevor (another former Blues player) and some friends to form House 9, a charitable foundation that raises money to help kids who can't afford to play hockey.
Downey says that with the expense of hockey, from registration fees to equipment and sticks, he saw the House 9 Foundation as a way to give something back to game that treated him fairly well.
The foundation will host its third annual charitable game next Wednesday in Collingwood. The House 9 Stars featuring NHL friends of Downey will take on the Collingwood Junior "A" Blackhawks who will use current players and alumni.
Downey says he was able to use his connections from his many years in hockey to come up with a lineup that is exciting for the fans and can help raise money. He says it is all about giving a kid a chance to play the game, because when you give someone an opportunity there is no telling what will happen.
Downey knows first-hand what a person can do if given an opportunity. After one year with the Collingwood Blues, the Shelburne area native was called up by the Guelph Storm of the OHL and got a walk-on tryout. He followed that up with a journeyman adventure through the best minor-pro leagues in North America for seven full seasons. Then he split some seasons between the AHL and NHL (Chicago and Boston) before catching on with Dallas fulltime.
Once given the opportunity, he made stops in St. Louis and Montreal before landing with Detroit -- where in 2008 he won a Stanley Cup.
The House 9 games started two summers ago in Shelburne when they took on the Senior "A" Muskies. This summer they felt the time was right to move the game to a bigger building and is looking forward to the first event in Collingwood. Downey says the town has welcomed the game with open arms and the event starts at 4 p.m. in the St. Marie Street parking lot with a tailgate party, including live music (with special guests who are being kept secret for now). The game starts at 7:45.
Downey credits his organizational team, which includes his younger brother Trevor, for pulling things together and making it a great event.
Trevor Downey also played Junior in Collingwood and both are glad to be able to bring the event to town. Aaron says more and more big names keep jumping at a chance to help, and he says with organizers like Trevor, and Shawn Kilshaw and Sue Snider (who is also the Deputymayor of Mulmur Township), the goal is to make House 9 one of the biggest charitable hockey foundations ever.
Downey chuckles when it is pointed out that a lot of players on his House 9 team can be recognized for playing the same rugged brand of hockey that earned him respect during his years in the NHL. He says they are a good bunch of hard-working players.
The House 9 lineup will include the Downey boys, and among others, Daniel Carcillo of the Philadelphia Flyers, Kris Draper of Detroit , Mike Komisarek of the Leafs, Steve Ott of the Stars and foundation co-founder Kyle Quincey of Colorado.
The House 9 Stars will have one other former Collingwood junior player in the lineup in Matt Beleskey, who is with Anaheim.
While Beleskey and the Downey brothers played with the team when it was called the Blues, they are thrilled with the new Blackhawks name and the association with Collingwood Minor Hockey. Downey says the team has a vision that is very much like that of the foundation.
Blackhawks General Manager Chris Melnyk is excited about the game. He says it will be great to help raise money for kids to play hockey, and will be the first big venture between the team and minor hockey in their efforts to have a closer alliance.
Melnyk is also glad to give the team some exposure as the season draws near, but says fans will still have to wait until opening night to see the new sweaters; he says that is one surprise they want to keep under wraps.
Melnyk says they are still finalizing the line, but says key players from this year, s squad like Andrew Ciampichini and Jonathon Hall will dress, and former fan favourites like Kris Kinnear and Brian Perry will be in attendance. Melnyk feels the game on Wednesday will be a chance to start the season off on a positive note and raise funds as well.
Details on the game are available at collingwoodblackhawks.com;tickets are also available at various locations around town including The Peak, Play it Again Sports and the arena. Melnyk says if there are any tickets left, some may be available at the door. He says based on the great line-up of NHL stars and the chance to see Collingwood Blackhawks old and new, he isn't expecting too many empty spots in the building and thinks fans should grab their tickets now.