Former NHLers to play in benefit game in Yarmouth April 7

Published on March 22, 2017

Gary J. Surette, a Yarmouth County resident who died of cancer in late 2015, was a big Boston Bruins fan.

YARMOUTH -- As the NHL gets ready for its playoffs, Yarmouth-area hockey fans will have a chance to see some former Stanley Cup winners up close at the Mariners Centre while supporting two cancer-related charities and remembering Gary J. Surette.

A group of former NHLers -- including Hall of Famers and former Stanley Cup champs Ray Bourque and Stéphane Richer – will be on the Mariners Centre ice Friday, April 7.

The weekend also will include a local hockey tournament to be held Saturday and Sunday, April 8 and 9.

A spokesperson for the Gary J. Surette Memorial Association, which is organizing the weekend, said things are coming together pretty well.

“It’s been a lot of work but well worth it,” said Shelley LeBlanc, the association’s president. “It takes a lot to plan a whole weekend, of course, and we want to make sure that the (former) NHL players are looked after properly and fed and treated first-class.”

Gary J. Surette, a Yarmouth County resident, was 53 when he died of cancer in late 2015. He was a big hockey fan and had coached local minor hockey in the 1990s and 2000s with Brian “Sumo” Comeau.

The upcoming event in Surette’s memory will benefit the Gilles Boudreau & Friends Cancer Help Fund and the Lodge That Gives, two organizations that were supportive of Surette during his brief battle with cancer.

LeBlanc was a good friend of Surette’s for more than 20 years. After Surette died, Comeau talked to LeBlanc about wanting to have a hockey tournament in Surette’s memory. LeBlanc suggested they make it a fundraiser. She approached another friend, Glenn Bourque, who had been trying to get an NHL alumni team to come to Yarmouth. Bourque got in touch with Steve Walton, president of the NHL Legends Maritime Tour, and things began coming together.

Kevin Surette, one of Gary Surette’s brothers, says it’s fitting that Gary be remembered through a weekend of hockey.

“Gary loved hockey,” recalled Kevin, a Yarmouth native living in Ontario. “Growing up, I remember in the wintertime it seemed there was always a competition for the local pond. Gary and his friends wanted to play hockey, while us younger kids just wanted to skate. Seems they won most of the time.”

LeBlanc acknowledges that if Gary Surette were around today, he likely would be a little uncomfortable getting all this attention.

“But he was such a kind, caring and giving person,” she said, “he would have been the first to jump on board to do something like this” for someone else.

And already LeBlanc says they’re thinking about the future.

“We’re going to have some kind of an event annually,” she said, adding that they’ve discussed possible activities for next year.

The more immediate focus, though, is on the April 7-9 weekend, including the Friday game with the former NHL stars, followed by the tournament the next two days. (Tournament organizers were hoping to bring together players whom Surette and Comeau had coached.)

General admission tickets for the April 7 NHL alumni game are $25, available through the Mariners Centre box office. Higher-priced options are available for meeting the former NHLers or attending a reception with them.

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