(pictured: Dominic Moore, July 25, 2013)
Over twenty NHL players – past and present – gathered Thursday at Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewery to participate in SmashFest!, a charity event hosted by former Leafs forward Dominic Moore in which hockey stars exchanged their sticks for ping pong paddles.
“A lot of people don’t know that ping pong is a staple of NHL locker rooms,” said Moore, who signed as a free agent with the New York Rangers on July 5. “Every dressing room in the league has a table, and guys are obsessed with playing. Why not bring this out, bring out the locker room culture and let people see a different side of the players’ personalities.”
This was the second year of the event. The inaugural SmashFest! was held in 2012 in support of concussion awareness. However the scope of this year’s fundraiser was expanded to include a cause close to Moore’s heart.
Katie Moore, Dominic’s wife, lost her battle with liver cancer in January at age 32.
“Originally we started out with concussion research, which is obviously a hot-button issue for hockey players,” said Moore. “This year we’re adding in the Katie Moore foundation which I’ve been trying to get off the ground over the last couple of months. There’s a lot of money for cancer research as we all know. But the rare cancers are under-represented. There’s a lot of people out there with these less common diseases that need help.
Cancer is the kind of thing that is going to touch everyone; if not you directly, then someone close to you, at some point in your life. It’s the kind of thing where, if you can do some small thing in some small way, you’ve got to do your part. I’m grateful to everyone tonight to be a part of this event.”
Moore projected his biggest rivals at the tables to be former Lightning teammate Martin St. Louis, Leafs sniper Phil Kessel, and Minnesota Wild winger Stephane Veilleux. “I think we’re all competitive guys, so hopefully we’ll have some fun out here,” said Moore.
St. Louis, the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner, downplayed his role as the favourite to win the event. “ I play table tennis a lot during the season, but I haven’t touched a paddle in three months,” he said. “But for us to get involved with something like this – it’s a good cause in remembrance of Dominic’s wife Katie – I’m just happy to be here!”
Recently-signed Maple Leaf David Clarkson was also humble about his ping-pong abilities, showing deference to his new teammate Kessel. “Anytime you can donate your time and come to a charity like this, we’re all excited,” Clarkson said. “I don’t want to say I’m good, I’m average. I heard Phil’s pretty good. It’s intimidating when you walk in here and you hear about all these good players.”
Clarkson also took time to reflect on his new surroundings, joining his hometown team after playing seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils. “I’ve been skating down at MasterCard Centre with all the guys, and it seems like we have a great locker room. It’s exciting when you come to a new city, especially being home where I grew up. I’m excited about it”.
On the day Toronto general manager Dave Nonis was inked to a new five-year contract extension, Clarkson happily reflected on his contract signing just over two weeks ago, “I was very impressed when I had my meeting with (Leafs management), and the way everything went. The direction they’ve gone is fantastic.”
Last year’s SmashFest! event raised almost $20,000 for charity.
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