Ice Breaker ‘best ever,’ in some ways – not in others

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The Ice Breaker Hockey Game and Banquet, held earlier this month was a lot of fun and had a lot of people talking – most of them saying good things.

What’s not to love about a ‘Battle of Alberta’ game featuring ex-pros from the Oilers and Flames?

“I think it was the best game we’ve ever had,” says chief organizer Shawn Gramlich. “The rivalry really worked out. I was talking to Louie and Marty (DeBrusk and McSorley) and they’re still mad (about losing). It added flair to the game.”

The banquet part of it was good too, but much scaled down from last year’s event, which featured Wayne Gretzky. That was by design, says Gramlich, because a banquet for 800 people at $1,000 per was just way too big to attempt again. With only 200 spots and at a quarter the price, it raised far less money for the Landon Persson Memorial Fund, but the smaller numbers resulted in a better experience for those who were there to meet and chat with the former NHL Stars.

Speaking of whom, Mark Messier was a “total pro,” Gramlich says, very personable and accessible. Not only that, when he heard from Gramlich the event might not break even, he sprung into action.

“I’ll make you $30,000,” Messier told him, then grabbed the mic, got onstage and announced he would be coming back to Slave Lake next July, and who would like to bid on a day of golf with him? That pretty quickly earned $15,000, Gramlich said – and this was all completely unexpected. Then Messier said to the other guy who had been bidding keenly, how about if I make it two days of golf? Boom! Another $15,000 materialized.

“There’s your 30 grand,” he said to Gramlich.

As a result, the profit overall for the Ice Breaker is a modest $15,000, which will be donated back to community groups and projects through the Landon Persson fund.

Gramlich says he isn’t sure if he’s got another such extravaganza in him. It’s a lot of work for a small group, he says. However he hasn’t ruled it out either.

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