Past Minnesota North Stars players and other retired pros in mixed matchup with amateur hockey players from the auto group’s ranks
The thrill of hockey memories met with some spirited jabs on the ice as former National Hockey League players joined auto dealership team members in Minnesota for a Saturday game in April that netted more than $46,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota.
“It’s personal to me as my father passed away from a complication with Alzheimer’s,” said Luther Bloomington Hyundai General Manager Lenny Checheris, who organized the event. “It is a horrible disease that will affect millions in the coming years as the baby boomers age.”
Susan Spalding, CEO of the two-state Alzheimer’s chapter said the condition is the only one of the top 10 killers that is growing in numbers. A growing population of older adults driven by the baby boomer generation and success in helping prevent other diseases are driving the trend, she explained.
Brad Maxwell, president of the Minnesota NHL Alumni Association, helped gather a sizable group of hockey vets. He played for the Minnesota North Stars from 1977 to 1987, before the team moved to Texas. Minnesota is known as the “State of Hockey,” and now has the Minnesota Wild professional team.
For the benefit game, teams were split evenly with amateurs from the Luther Automotive Group. “We don’t skate as fast as we once did but we still pass and shoot pretty good,” Maxwell said. NHL Alumni members include four generations of players. “The young guys bring different variables to the game, the way they skate and play,” he said. “We had a great time, laughing and joking with each other and pushing and shoving. That’s what we want.”
Among the group was Mike Crowley, Dave Jensen, Maxwell, Craig Norwich, Chris McAlpine, Carl Wetzel (coach), Ben Hankinson, Lance Pitlick, Eric Westrum, Bob Bergloff, Lee Goren, Scott Anderson, Dan Trebil, Jon Rohloff, Jeff Nielsen and Sean Toomey.
Dollars raised from the event held at Bloomington Ice Garden will support a number of Alzheimer’s Association activities, explains Spalding. The group served more than 40,000 people in 2014 with services including a 24/7 live helpline, 120 support groups run by trained volunteers, corporate and community education, advocacy work and research promotion.
People with Alzheimer’s number about 80,000 in Minnesota and 20,000 in North Dakota, according to association estimates. One in nine people have it by age 65 and, by age 85, it’s one in three, Spalding said. There is no cure.
To honor his father, Checheris plays in a number 77 hockey jersey with the words Papou John. Papou means grandfather in Greek. He joined players for meet and greet sessions with fans young and old, a post-game party and a silent auction.