After setting the world record in 2012 playing hockey for 246 continuous hours and raising $1.7 million for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, organizers of the world’s longest game were at it again, only this time their goals were even more grandiose.
On May 4 2014, 40 men including six Chestermere residents returned to the Chestermere Recreation Centre which was to be their home for the next 11 days while they skated their way to setting a new Guinness world record. This time the goal was not only to beat the record they had previously set by playing for 248 hours, but they also wanted to raise a lofty $2 million dollars while they were at it.
This year, the funds raised would once again go toward the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation for brain health, however, they also will donate some to the Southern Alberta Flood Relief efforts as well as Samuel’s Ride.
Hours before the game was to conclude on May 14, they reached their fundraising goal when a couple of large last minute donations came in, helping the hero’s to reach their $2 million target.
“It’s a pretty amazing feeling, it’s like winning the championship for us,” comments Steve Zmudczynski, who played in the longest hockey game for Team Hope. Zmudczynski was awarded a golden stick at the closing ceremonies, which saw hundreds of supports gathered to watch, for his record of scoring the most goals in the game. He was the lead goal scorer with 1,000 goals. In the end, Team Hope defeated Team Cure with a score of 4,933 – 4,706.
For Chestermere resident and two time Hockey Marathon participant, Chris Robertson, the journey this time around was similar to the one in 2012 although this time he was more prepared in terms of what to expect physically and mentally.
“There are some dark exhausting days as this event pushes your body and mind to its limits with very little sleep. The game requires the players to play through any injury mental or physical and you have to realize and accept that from the beginning. It truly is a journey, a worthwhile and inspiring journey,” commented Robertson.
It’s safe to say that without the volunteers and Chestermere residents that came out in astonishing numbers to support these men over the course of the 11 day journey, this dream would not have blossomed the way it did.
“The event would not have been possible without the hundreds of volunteers that in many backboned the marathon game. The volunteers, some of which included referees, bench liaisons and timekeepers worked countless shifts including through the middle of the night to keep the game and the players going,” said Robertson. “They were all so upbeat and energetic all the players are so thankful for their efforts.”
Alex Halat was instrumental in the organization of this event that needed the help of nearly 1,500 volunteers to accomplish the amazing feat of achieving $2 million. “This game was a beast of its own, thank you to everyone that attended, donated and volunteered because without them this would have never been possible,” said Halat.
According to event organizer and hockey marathon board member Lesley Plumley, over 80% of the game volunteers were Chestermere residents. “I am incredibly overwhelmed with the community of Chestermere and their support. Be proud Chestermere – it is incredibly humbling see what you did to make this event a huge success”
“There is no question that Chestermere represented itself so well during this event. It certainly made me feel proud to be a part of this community,” Robertson remarked. “Special thanks to Steen Wallin for organizing the kids marathon game and raising well over $5,000.” Both of Robertson’s young children participated in the mini-marathon game that was held on Mother’s Day in conjunction with the larger event, “There was a lot of proud parents in the Rec Center that day.”
When Robertson was asked where he got a lot of his inspiration for the game he explained that much of it came from Team Cure’s honorary coach, Sienna. “Sienna has had 29 surgeries on her brain to date and is 8 years old. She visited our bench almost daily and was always smiling, happy and energetic. Considering what she has been through she always inspired me to keep going and reminded me that whatever I was going through during this gruelling event was temporary.”
“To make it through a game of this type requires a lot of personal motivation and some great support from your family. I really tried to enjoy the experience with my teammates and I can’t say enough about the other 39 guys I completed this journey with,” he said.
Robertson explains that without his wife and two children, Sophie and Jack, making daily visits to the arena it would have been much more difficult to commit. “Having the support of my wife, Lisa, was huge. Lisa held things together at home for 10 days.”
So will they do it again? “I think so!” says Halat, who adds, “When, however, I can’t tell you as my body is broken now and it would shut down if I gave you an answer.”
You can still visit the website at www.hockeymarathon.com to donate to the cause.