Last week, I had the pleasure to accompany in Moncton one of our Canadian athletes Jean Labonte. Jean is a Paralympian and Captain of the Canadian Sledge Hockey Team. As an official supplier to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, as well as a sponsor for the Paralympics, we introduced the Fund a Champion campaigna few months ago and committed up to $20,000 each to 10 athletes from across Canada, to help them close the competitive gap in their respective sports heading into the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. One of those athletes is Jean Labonté and he was our guest for this two day visit in Moncton. An important part of the program is to engage Molson Coors employees with Canadian athletes in the months leading up to the Vancouver Games next winter. So it was the primary reason why Jean was in Moncton, but while in town we took the opportunity to raise awareness of the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics and demonstrate the sport of sledge hockey. As part of Jean’s visit, Molson Coors also made a $5,000 donation to the Moncton Wheelchair Sports Association to help support sports activities for the physically disabled in the area.
So Jean’s visit was a busy one indeed. It began on Wednesday afternoon with a private tour of our brewery in Moncton lead by its brew master, David Hamel. The visit was followed by a “meet & greet” with all of the Moncton employees in the Brewery’s hospitality room. Jean had the opportunity to discuss with them about the life and preparation of an athlete in the months leading to the Games and talk about Sledge Hockey. Then we went on to dinner where we hosted Jean and some of our key local stakeholders and business partners. Amongst the many guests present George Leblanc, Mayor of Moncton and Clarence Sweetland, the Riverview Mayor. After dinner Jean and I went for a beer at one of our good customers in Moncton where he and I got to know each other a little more and share some good laughs.
On Thursday morning, we gathered at the University of Moncton arena to present our $ 5,000 donation to the Moncton Wheelchair Sports Association which Jean and Steve Dykeman, Molson Coors Regional Sales Manager for N.B. & P.E.I. presented to its President Peter Cameron. Peter was not only happy to receive our donation but also to meet Jean and discuss with him about sledge hockey. That was an important discussion since the Association plans start their own sledge hockey team.
Following the usual photo op, we arranged for the media, we were joined by some of Molson Coors sales representatives and players of “les “Aigles Bleus” the men and women’suniversity hockey team. It was for all a first try at playing hockey on a sledge and no matter if you were young, old, athletic or not so much, it proved to be quite challenging at first. But with Jean’s advice and coaching all were able to quickly get the hang of it and maneuver their sledges well enough to engage in a friendly game. I myself got on the ice and experienced sledge hockey…In my short shift I managed to score a goal, not a “highlight reel candidate” but still… Then I quickly came to the conclusion that I couldn’t keep up the pace with Jean and the younger athletes on the ice, so I opted to stick to my defensive zone and guard our team’s goal.
It was a whirlwind visit but all who met him were very pleased with his visit and Jean was very pleased with the hospitality he received in Moncton. Some news fans who might be in attendance cheering for Jean and his teammates at the upcoming World Sledge Hockey Challenge in nearby Charlottetown, Nov 17-21. I sure am now a fan of our sledge hockey team and plan to follow them closely all the way to the Games. I told Jean I was going to be at the final gold medal game of the Sledge Hockey in Vancouver on Saturday March 20, 2010 and I semi-jokingly turned back to him and asked if he would be there? I have no doubt that he and the entire team is committed to do whatever it takes to be there…
Cheers to our Canadian Sledge Hockey Team!
Sebastien – follow me on Twitter @MolsonSeb