Year in Review 2011: Cottage Grove hosts big-time NHL stars in charity gameArea hockey fans got a rare treat on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena, as nearly 1,500 watched over 30 NHL players go head-to-head in the first-ever Stepan/Chorney/Taffe NHL Players Charity Hockey Game.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
The final score was 11-7, but no one cared much about that.
Area hockey fans got a rare treat on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at the Cottage Grove Ice Arena, as nearly 1,500 watched over 30 NHL players go head-to-head in the first-ever Stepan/Chorney/Taffe NHL Players Charity Hockey Game.
Hastings’ natives Jeff Taffe, Derek Stepan and Taylor Chorney, each playing in the NHL or with an NHL farm team, spearheaded the event in hopes of giving back to their community and the sport they love.
The game drew a number of big names, most with local ties.
Other players taking part in the charity game included Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils, Paul Martin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres, Kyle Okposo from the New York Islanders and Jamie McBain from the Carolina Hurricanes.
“Most of the time you’re competing against these guys,” said Chorney, a standout defenseman at the University of North Dakota, and the 36th overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2005. “Tonight is kind of a laid-back environment and you get to go out there and have some fun with them. During the year, it’s so competitive, it’s pro hockey, so it’s nice to be able to go out there and play in a relaxed environment and in front of the home fans.”
Perhaps more impressive than the display of skills on the ice, was the display of generosity before, during and after the game as players spent hours signing jerseys, giving away sticks, taking pictures and meeting fans.
Proceeds from the game benefited the Cottage Grove Hockey Association, the Hastings Hockey Association and Defending The Blue Line —?a nonprofit organization created by soldiers ensuring that children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in the game of hockey.
Stepan, who played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, went on to star for the University of Wisconsin and was the captain of the United States gold-medal winning team at the 2010 IIHF World U20 Championships. He notched 45 points for the New York Rangers as a rookie and made history on October 9, 2010, becoming the first player in Rangers history and the fourth in NHL history to score a hat trick in his NHL debut.
“I grew up and played in Hastings and Hastings gave me a lot,” Stepan said. “Anytime you can donate back you do it in a heartbeat. I was fortunate enough to have a group of people that did all the work and got this set up. A lot of people put in a lot of hours on this. It was something special that I was very happy to do.”