Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

River Heights' star on ice

Famous Blackhawk shoots TV spot here

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If the latest Canadian Tire TV commercials seem oddly familiar to you, they should -- particularly if you're a hockey player or parent.

The promotional spots for the retail giant's hockey line of JT19 gear, featuring Jonathan Toews, the Winnipeg-born captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, were filmed at the River Heights Community Centre last month.

The commercials show an actor, Paul Constable, introducing Toews, who salutes in response. Constable holds up pieces of equipment -- a knee pad, a glove and a stick -- which are knocked out of his hands in quick succession by pucks shot by Toews.

Jim Carson, general manager of the Corydon Community Centre, which includes the River Heights rink, said he "lucked out" in landing the commercial.

A hockey school had recently cancelled its ice rentals so when Canadian Tire officials called, he had a large opening that needed to be filled.

"It was a win-win for everybody, especially us. It gave us the income that we lost from the hockey school, and it gives our rink some exposure," he said.

To make the arena as esthetically pleasing as possible, Canadian Tire added extra whitening into the paint mix for the ice and cleaned the boards.

"They spent thousands and thousands of dollars," Carson said. "They had it catered and invited my staff up to have lunch with them."

J.J. Hochrein, Toronto-based associate vice-president of strategic marketing at Canadian Tire, said it originally looked at shooting the commercial at the Jonathan Toews Community Centre in St. Vital, but it was booked. River Heights was an ideal second choice, he said, because the rafters in the older-style arena -- it was built in the early 1960s -- provided the feel they were looking for.

Hochrein admitted there was a bit of trickery in the shoot -- there was a piece of string attached to each piece of equipment so it could be yanked out of Constable's hand, plus Toews was shooting sponge pucks.

"In various takes, Jonathan actually did hit the gear. The take on TV, 100 per cent he hit the stick. The guy on the ladder out of the frame was ducking pucks for probably an hour straight. Even though they were sponge pucks, Jonathan was whistling them pretty good," he said.

Toews also shook some hands and chatted with members of the River Heights staff. Kathy Turner, the community centre's sport co-ordinator, said the Olympic gold medallist and Stanley Cup winner was accompanied by his mother, Andrée Gilbert.

"He was extremely nice, pleasant and very soft-spoken," she said. "He needed some hockey tape, so I got it for him. He's friends with my cousin, so we were chatting about the person we had in common."

Turner wasn't star-struck during the encounter. Her uncle, Bob Leiter, played 11 seasons in the NHL in the 1950s and '60s and her grandfather, Bill Allum, played a couple of games in the early 1940s, so hockey players have been part of her life.

"My uncle was roommates with Bobby Orr, which is how I got to meet him," she said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2012 A4

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