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Fundraiser for Winnipeg addictions centre draws NHLers, Don Cherry

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2018-08-23 Holly Caruk
a desk with a laptop on a table: A fundraiser was held for the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre at the Metropolitain Entertainment Centre Wednesday evening. © Holly Caruk/CBC A fundraiser was held for the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre at the Metropolitain Entertainment Centre Wednesday evening.

A fundraiser for a hotly debated Winnipeg addictions treatment centre brought some of the most recognizable names in hockey under one roof Wednesday evening.

A handful of NHL players and a few of Canada's hockey broadcasting icons were at the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre on Donald Street to put their support behind a colleague and a cause.

"We are delighted to say that this has turned out to be one of the hottest tickets in town, it's been sold out for weeks," said Scott Oake, a veteran CBC Sports announcer from Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC).

a man wearing a suit and tie: Scott Oake said having the support of his colleagues at Hockey Night In Canada is special. © Holly Caruk/CBC Scott Oake said having the support of his colleagues at Hockey Night In Canada is special.

"And it's a measure of the support we have in the community and the support our foundation and our family has from colleagues and friends," he said.

Oake hosted the  Hockey Night in Canada -themed fundraiser to raise money for the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre.

The planned 50-bed treatment facility is named after Oake's son, who died of a heroin overdose in 2011 at the age of 25.

Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and Elliot Friedman were in attendance as well as guest of honour Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Winnipeg-born players Brendan Leipsic of the Vancouver Canucks and Ryan Reaves of the Vegas Golden Knights were also on the guest list, as well as Winnipeg Jets Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Josh Morrissey and Ben Chiarot.

Oake said Reaves was also a close friend of Bruce's growing up.

a group of people sitting at a table: Tickets for the event went for $300 each and included dinner and a silent auction, as well as a performance by magician Darcy Oake, Bruce’s brother. © Holly Caruk/CBC Tickets for the event went for $300 each and included dinner and a silent auction, as well as a performance by magician Darcy Oake, Bruce’s brother.

The event was attended by 425 people and included dinner and a silent auction, as well as a performance by magician Darcy Oake, Bruce's brother.

"We're looking forward to a great night and the best part of it all is that we will raise substantial money for the foundation toward establishing that long-term recovery centres — the much-needed recovery centre, here in Winnipeg," said Oake.

Oake wouldn't say what the fundraising goal for the night was, only that it was substantial.

"We do [have a goal] and it's a lot, and we don't know if we're going to hit it," he said.

Tickets for the event went for $300 a piece, and up to $50,000 for the title sponsorship table.

Oake said this is the first major fundraiser for the centre and, but there are plans to do it annually.

Recovery centre faces opposition

The recovery centre has received backlash from the community where it is set to be built in St. James.

Many residents are opposed to building the centre at the site of the old Vimy Arena and say it's inappropriate for an addictions recovery centre to be in their neighbourhood.

Oake said the foundation is still going through the rezoning process for the land and are in the public consultation phase.

a bench in front of a building: The Vimy Arena in Crestview has been closed and boarded up for years. © Gary Soliak/CBC The Vimy Arena in Crestview has been closed and boarded up for years.

"We're not taking anything for granted, I want to point that out, we're following the process, we're doing our best to get the information out there," said Oake.

Oake said a capital fundraising campaign for the project is planned down the road, but right now they are focusing on crossing the hurdles at city hall.

Oake said there's even more need for the project to go through now than ever.

"It's past the crisis stage now, it's at the epidemic stage ," he said.

"So we have to do better as a society, as compassionate empathetic human beings."

'To have the support of my colleagues is special'

The long-term recovery centre will house only men and is planning to treat addicts for as long as it takes, and not turn anyone away who can't afford to pay.

The broadcaster said his HNIC colleagues only attend a few select events like this one each year, but it didn't take much for them to agree to come.

"The fact that they have chosen to be here in support of the Bruce Oake Foundation is very touching," said Oake.

"I don't want to be flippant about it and say I'd expect nothing less, but I know them to be quality, compassionate human beings, and it didn't take much to  — well, no convincing was required," said Oake.

"To have the support of my colleagues is special."

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