For an organization with seven Sutherland Cup championships and multiple players who went on to play professionally – including two Hockey Hall of Famers – the Stratford Hockey Club has been slow to build a strong alumni base.
Phil Westman, the Warriors’ director of hockey operations who has spent 16 years with the club in various capacities, acknowledged as much, but he’s trying to change that. The organization is hosting an alumni weekend Jan. 24-25 as it tries to tap into its history.
“It’s something our organization has worked on the last couple of years,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get the guys here, and once they get here it’s hard to leave.”
Alumni games have been held before, but this year’s event will include a meet-and-greet and drinks Friday, Jan. 24 in the Allman Arena upper lobby, which will also have an exhibit celebrating the past.
“Last year we had a really good time, and (with) friends who hadn’t seen each other and families come in it was real good experience for everyone,” Westman said. “We’re doing anything we can to get people more involved with the hockey club and recognize the past and some good years in Stratford.”
There will be two games this year – Saturday, Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. and 5:30 at the Allman – and while some of the most recognizable former player such as Chris Pronger, Rob Blake and Ed Olczyk won’t be there, longtime NHLer Greg deVries and current NHL referee Kendrick Nicholson headline a list of Cullitons and Warriors alumni that spans several years.
Westman and former player Kyle Casey (2001-05) are spearheading the event with some help from former Beacon Herald sports editors John Kastner and Steve Rice.
“We’d like to grow it and eventually have some type of a real big alumni game,” Westman said.
“Ultimately we’d have a game and then make our golf tournament a larger success as well. Guys come back, and this day in age you gotta do anything you can to raise money.”
For more information or to get involved, call Westman at 519-465-4671 or email Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admission to the games is free, but fans are asked to make a donation to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.