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'Great night': Fans, charities score at Barn Burner hockey game

While the game was all in fun, the stars of hockey and fans in attendance were happy to raise over $270,000 for local charities

The score was tied, which created a win-win situation at Wednesday’s annual Boots and Hearts Barn Burner charity hockey event. 

The Barn Burner brought a packed house to the Sadlon Arena last night and saw the return of several regulars playing in the charity-based game.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, and Leafs legends/NHL Hall of Famers Gary Roberts and Mike Gartner were joined by former Barrie Colts and now Calgary Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane and multiple women’s hockey gold-medalist, Emma Maltais and many others in support of the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) and local charities.

Roberts, who was infamous for his on-ice toughness, amassed over 2,000 penalty minutes in his 1,224 NHL games. 

Roberts was asked how long it takes for the charity game to get competitive, with Gartner interrupting.

“For Gary, it takes about nine seconds or when the first guy kinda bumps him,” said Gartner.

Roberts agreed.

“Yeah, the first guy who bumps me is about it all it takes,” said Roberts. “My expectations are pretty low this year. Mike and I talked last night (Tuesday) and neither of us has done much this year so we’ll just try to get through the game without getting hurt.”

New Jersey Devils centre and Keswick native, Chris Tierney was back for the event and said he looks forward to it every year.

“It's a lot of fun, it's always the highlight of the summer coming here. It's a fun game for a bunch of great causes and having worked with the same charities for a few years it is great to see some familiar faces and see the proceeds going to these great charities.”

Before the action on the ice began, Tavares and wife Aryne joined some local youth in packing backpacks for PIE Education and Progress For Mental Health. 

That initiative will see thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies and hygiene products handed out to children in Barrie, Ottawa and Rexdale.

In the 14 years of its existence (missing two years due to the pandemic), the event has raised more $2 million for a variety of charities.

Last night’s cheque read $276,000, but organizations such as RVH’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Ontario Easter Seals, The Rotary Club of Barrie-Huronia, Kempenfelt Rotary Club, PIE Education, and many other causes could see upwards of $290,000 after the last few tallies are completed. 

Kevin Lastman brought his grandkids and their friends to the event and said he used to do the same before the pandemic break.

“This is a great night that lets the kids get loud and enjoy popcorn and pop before I bring them back to mom and dad,” said Lastman. “Seriously though, knowing the money is going to local charities is wonderful and getting the pregame autographs is always a good time.”

Maltais may be from Burlington, but the Olympic hockey gold medalist was happy to be in Barrie to represent women’s hockey in the game.

“This is a really awesome event and I’m excited to be participating for such great causes,” said Maltais. “I’m just graduating from Ohio State and very lucky that there is a new women’s league starting up with new opportunities for women. To be here and play with such great hockey players and see lots of young girls and boys in the crowd is awesome.”

The event is also a lead-in to the multi-day Boots and Hearts music festival set to begin Thursday night with Tim Hicks as the main artist tonight.

The rest of the weekend will have Nickelback, Keith Urban and Tim McGraw as headliners.

For more on the festival, head to the website here.