Matt Calvert’s always down for a day on the golf course during the National Hockey League off-season, all the better if it’s for a good cause.
The Columbus Blue Jackets forward is one of 34 celebrities giving their time on Friday for the Investors Group BIRT Cup celebrity golf tournament, which will raise money for the Ashley Neufeld Softball Complex.
A former Brandon Wheat Kings captain, Calvert was enlisted by former Wheat Kings coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk and tournament president Scott Hlady, who is now the Western Hockey League team’s equipment manager.
Calvert said it’s rewarding to see the results of fundraisers such as this in his hometown.
"It’s always great to see where the money goes from these events, especially when you can help with something local and really see the benefits, different complexes built and different kids around the area helped out," he said.
"It’s special when you can see that happen and really see what we’re putting into it pay off."
Among those chipping in for the tournament at the Shilo Country Club are an impressive list of hockey players with ties to the area who went on to the professional ranks, including Theo Fleury, Travis Hamonic, Aaron Rome, Mark Stone, Colby Robak, Marty Murray, Wayne Babych and Ryan Craig. Also involved are well-known figures from other walks of life such as former PGA Tour winner Dan Halldorson.
Calvert said there’s a reunion aspect to these types of events that adds to the fun.
"You get to see guys you don’t necessarily get to see during the summer, guys like Mark Stone and Travis Hamonic from Winnipeg and guys I played with before, so it’s always a bit of a homecoming so to speak," he said. "… It’s always a lot of fun. You get in a good group (for golf) and then you get to the supper later and have some fun and share some old stories."
The BIRT Cup was previously around in a smaller format, but Hlady said the alignment with the Ashley Neufeld Complex has really helped to give the event a purpose.
"Without the celebrities a tournament like this won’t be successful, but even more importantly without the Ashley Neufeld Softball Complex and the Ashley Neufeld fund this tournament isn’t what it is going to be today, tomorrow or three or four years down the line," he said.
Work is already well underway on the new multi-diamond softball complex — to be located on Parker Avenue in Brandon — with fundraising closing in on $300,000 for the $820,000 project.
To help along the way, the BIRT Cup is auctioning off memorabilia from tournament participants including jerseys autographed by Calvert and fellow former Wheat Kings captain Mark Derlago, plus autographed jerseys from other sports stars such as Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, Ryan Reaves of the St. Louis Blues and Dustin Schneider of the Canadian men’s volleyball team.
Those not able to come to the tournament and banquet may submit bids prior to the event by texting or calling Hlady at 204-573-4242 or Gylywoychuk at 204-761-7615.