Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 03/24/2014 3:19 PM | Comments: 0
All-star teams of musicians and NHL alumni face off in the 11th annual JUNO Cup to kickstart JUNO Weekend.
The Rockers captain, Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy, says the JUNO Cup is a great way to publicize MusiCounts, which provides scholarships and grants to school and after-school music programs.
"It’s also a chance to get musicians to come to the JUNOS and be part of the celebration," he says. "It’s really important for the celebration to have all the musicians get together because we never get another chance."
Musicians are always eager to support MusiCounts. In fact, The Rockers team usually has so much talent it has to form two squads of players.
"They’re all into it. I think it has been a great addition to the JUNOS," Cuddy says.
"We try to make it fun. It’s an entertaining evening, and it’s for a very good charity. You’d be surprised how many schools are hurting for money and are thinking of closing their music programs, which I think would be a terrible shame."
The teams swap goalies to give The Rockers a fighting chance, and Cuddy says fans get behind the underdogs.
"It’s a very interesting dynamic. If the NHLers try too hard against us, the crowd gets against them. They’re used to being heroes. They’re not used to being villains, so they don’t like that," he says.
"They’re so gifted. They were in the NHL for a reason. We’re broken-down old quarter horses and they’re thoroughbreds. But we try to surprise them, and every so often there’s a really good musician hockey player. We’re destined to lose, but we have to lose with honour."
NHL Greats captain Mark Napier expects his team to trounce The Rockers, but it’s a friendly rivalry. And he says the teams actually have a lot in common.
"It’s kind of funny because if guys didn’t play hockey, they’d probably want to be rock stars. And I think a lot of rock stars wanted to be hockey players. It’s a pretty good mix, so we all have a lot of mutual respect for each other," he says.
"They’ve got a couple of good players. We can’t let them beat us, but we certainly respect the talents that they have."
A sing-off, skills competition and awards ceremony are part of the fun for fans and players alike, and Napier would like to see a sellout crowd in the stands.
"Obviously, the most important part is that it’s for MusiCounts, which I personally think is a great charity, and so do all the guys that play," Napier says.
"Hockey is an expensive sport. It’s a similar idea with music. A lot of these kids would never have a chance to play an instrument if it wasn’t for something like MusiCounts that puts instruments in the schools. It gives these kids a chance to see if they really want to be musicians when they grow up. If it inspires a couple kids to follow their dreams, we’re certainly all better for it and we’ve done a good job."
Game time is 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 28 at the MTS Iceplex (3969 Portage Ave.) Tickets cost $20 plus service charges at www.ticketmaster.ca. Proceeds benefit MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with CARAS.
* denotes a 2014 JUNO Award nominee.
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