The Toledo Walleye organization is celebrating the holiday season by expanding an annual charity event to two days.
Local youth and high school hockey teams will once again take to the ice at the Huntington Center on Friday and Saturday for the fourth annual Holiday HockeyFest.
The contests will serve as a precursor to a nightcap of two Walleye games. Toledo plays Cincinnati on Friday and Kalamazoo on Saturday.
A portion of the proceeds from the day-long events will go to a charity fund established to support former Clay High School player Kyle Cannon, who was paralyzed after being hit in a game in 2008.
Clay hockey coach Mike Heck said he is amazed that the support has grown from a single game to a two-day event. His Eagles team played Anthony Wayne in one charity game at the first annual event at the Huntington Center in 2009.
“For the Walleye to continue this is phenomenal because it's now evolving into something bigger,” Heck said. “We have more high schools involved. It's more than just one single game now.”
Cannon, who graduated with his teammates from Clay in June, is now a freshman at Bowling Green State University.
“This all still benefits Kyle,” Heck said. “He's still receiving funds and this can help him through college and with his medical aid.”
Eight local high schools will play in four charity games. Whitmer takes on Fremont Ross at 1 p.m. Friday, followed by a game between the original participants, Clay and Anthony Wayne.
Lake plays Springfield at 12:10 p.m. Saturday, followed by a game between Eastwood and Perrysburg.
Walleye manager of special events Mike Keedy said he is thrilled the event has expanded.
“Our area has such strong youth and high school programs,” Keedy said. “We're happy we can offer a venue to showcase our up and coming talent. I hope the momentum continues to build.”
New this year is a college game at 3 p.m. Saturday. The club teams from the University of Toledo and Eastern Michigan University also will participate.
The events kick off at 11:30 a.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Saturday with games featuring local youth teams. The Walleye games start at 7:05 each night.
Tickets are $15 and are good for admission to the Holiday HockeyFest events and for any Walleye home game this season, including this weekend's contests.
Season ticket holders and others that already have tickets to the games on Friday and Saturday will be admitted for no additional cost to the Holiday HockeyFest events.
The tickets can be purchased at toledowalleye.com, at the box office, or by phone at 419-725-9255.
Five dollars from each Holiday HockeyFest ticket sold will be donated to the KC3 Trust, which is a charitable fund for Cannon.
More than $40,000 has been raised in the event's first three years.
Cannon was a 14-year-old freshman and was playing for the varsity team in November, 2008, when he was checked into the boards. The impact broke two vertebrae, paralyzing him from the chest down.
Cannon, who now uses a wheelchair, is majoring in computer science at BGSU. Heck said all the players that were on the team when Cannon was injured have now moved on. “But he's obviously still a big part of our program,” Heck said.
In fact, Kyle's younger brother Chandler is now a freshman in the program. He wears Kyle's No. 3 jersey.
“We had retired the number but the family decided that Chandler would wear it,” Heck said.
The coach said Kyle still comes to games to support the Eagles. “He's as much a part of this program now, if not more,” Heck said.
The event has become a rallying point for the hockey community, according to Walleye officials.
Toledo coach Nick Vitucci said “the hockey world takes care of their own.” He said if a current or former player at any level is in need, others in the hockey community step up.
The Cannon family relies on money from insurance and fundraisers, such as the one at the Huntington Center, to pay his medical care. The KC3 Trust fund was established at First Federal Bank.
Cannon will be at the games on Friday even though he shies away from the spotlight, according to his coach.
“He's such an appreciative kid,” Heck said. “But he doesn't want a lot of attention put on him. He'd rather be in the background. He understands why people are doing this and takes it all in stride.”
FISH TALES: The Walleye (16-12-1) fell out of first place in the ECHL North Division with two road losses last weekend. Toledo fell 4-3 to Greenville on Friday and dropped a 5-2 decision to the Road Warriors on Saturday. ... Before this weekend's home games, Toledo plays at Fort Wayne on Thursday night. The Walleye are 2-2-0 against the expansion Komets (14-12-2), who are third in the North, this season. ... On Friday night Toledo hosts first-place Cincinnati (17-8-2). The Walleye are 3-1-0 against the Cyclones. ... On Saturday night Toledo plays Kalamazoo, which has a 11-14-3 record and is in fourth place. The Walleye are 3-2-0 against the Wings. ... Walleye F Terry Broadhurst is on a 12-game tear, scoring six goals while collecting nine assists. Broadhurst has also scored at least one goal in each of the past four games. ... G Jordan Pearce is ranked eighth in the ECHL with a 2.53 goals against average. ... Toledo has held a shot advantage in 21 of the 29 games this season. But the Walleye are 10-11-0 when having more shots than the other team. Yet when the Walleye have been outshot they are 5-0-1. ... The Walleye are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games. They are 9-5-0 at home where they have won five in a row.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.