Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

SuperStar Summer Showdown soaking in serendipity

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Serendipity can be a beautiful thing.

Or maybe it's karmic, or some cosmic angel dust that is sprinkled on fairy tales, even those where the endings are not always happily ever after.

It's just that once upon a time, a young hockey player stricken with cancer dreamt up an idea to hold a charity shinny game to help fight against a disease that eventually robbed him of his last shift on Earth.

"I see a sold-out rink," Todd Davison envisioned, "where everybody comes together to watch the game and everybody knows they're helping the cause."

The original SuperStar Summer Showdown was a relatively modest affair held in August, 2006 in Selkirk. The core of players were mostly teenagers Davison had grown up playing with or against; a prodigy named Jonathan Toews, a born leader in Mike Richards, a hammer-fisted enforcer in Colton Orr, a stud defenceman named Cam Barker and prolific young talents named Nigel Dawes and Travis Zajac, to name just a few.

They were all just kids, really, and not exactly superstars. Davison was just a 20-year-old himself when the first Showdown was staged. The rink was sold out (about 1,800) and the game raised $50,000 for Cancer Care.

Pretty awesome, right?

"I have goose bumps just thinking about it," recalled Colleen Deckert, whose son, Jesse, was a childhood buddy of Davison. "Todd was so excited. He thought it was going to be this little game and it never was. It was a great thing from the very beginning."

Then something kinda magical happened. As if wishing could make it so, a few of those original players did become superstars. A lot of them won world junior titles. Almost all of them forged NHL careers that are only just beginning. Some of them have already won Stanley Cups.

It's as though they had a guardian angel or something.

Because when the fifth annual SuperStar Summer Showdown takes place tonight at the MTS Centre, it's worth noting that the core roster hasn't changed a great deal from that first night in Selkirk. But, boy, it's amazing what a difference five years can make.

Consider: Toews (who may be sidelined with a strained MCL, but will be available for autographs) is the captain of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks, having captured the Conn Smythe last June for good measure. His opposition in the Cup Final? That would have been Richards, the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Both Toews and Richards were key components of Team Canada's Olympic gold medal team in Vancouver.

The lineup also includes recent Cup winners in Darren Helm and Derek Meech (Detroit Red Wings, 2008) and Edmonton's Dustin Penner (Anaheim, 2007). Zajac is a front line centre with the New Jersey Devils. Orr is the resident minder of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which automatically makes him one of the most popular Buds in town.

In fact, given that Manitoba Moose-turned-Vancouver Canucks netminder Cory Schneider will also be suiting up for his swan song at the MTS Centre today, the roster for Davison's Dream Team would be the envy of many NHL GMs.

How about a No. 1 unit of Toews between Penner, the Oilers leading scorer (a rich man's Dustin Bufuglien) and Washington's Eric Fehr, two wingers from Winkler. Or maybe Richards centering Zajac and Dawes?

Specialists

On defence we've got Barker (Minnesota Wild) and Ian White (Calgary Flames), both world junior gold medalists and power-play specialists.

Gotta kill a penalty? Helm and Toews, you're up. Trouble brewing? Say hello to my little friends, Orr and Jordin Tootoo (Nashville Flames). Problem solved.

And to think it all began with a group of young local hockey players who always had their friend's back.

"It's pretty amazing," noted Dawes. "When we first started (the event) we were all pretty young and just starting our careers. Now to see the height that some of the guys have gone to. It's a little overwhelming what some of the guys have accomplished over the last few years. And the turnout just keeps getting bigger and bigger."

Deckert and fellow co-founder Glenn Carneige -- another of Davison's hockey buddies who is now a conditioning coach for the Canucks -- have had a lot to do with the "bigger" part. But they still chuckle at what Davison's "Dream in the Goal" foundation has become.

"Todd would get such a kick out of this," Deckert said. "Last year when did it at MTS Centre (for the first year) we were so concerned about our ticket sales. And when we walked into the arena, we had sold over 5,000 tickets. It just brought a tear to your eye. And Glenn and I looked at each other and said, 'What would Todd think of this?'"

And after drawing 5,000 to the MTS Centre last year, there's a good chance they'll sell out the lower bowl today.

Yes, a sold out rink, where everybody comes together to watch the game and everybody knows they're helping the cause.

Todd Davison shot, serendipity scored.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2010 C4

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About Randy Turner

While attending Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, Randy Turner one day read an account of a Winnipeg Jets game in the Free Press when it dawned on him: "Really, you can get paid to watch sports?"

Turner later graduated with a spectacularly mediocre 2.3 GPA from Red River Community College’s Creative Communications program. 

After jobs at the Stonewall Argus and Selkirk Journal, he began working on the Rural page for the Free Press in 1987. Several years later, he realized his dream of watching sports for a living covering the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Bombers.

In 2001, Turner became a general sports columnist, where he watched Canada win its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years at Salt Lake, then watched them win again in Vancouver in 2010.

He also watched everything from high school hockey and volleyball championship to several Grey Cups, NHL finals and World Junior hockey tournaments.

In the fall of 2011, Turner became a general features writer for the paper. But he still watches way too much sports.

Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing.

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