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There was something rather uncommon about the 45th Rady JCC Sports Dinner at the RBC Convention Centre, held on Wednesday, May 10th, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

As advertised, the keynote speaker, Teemu Selanne was at the head table. So were dinner honouree Bryan Klein, Blair Worb - now in his fifth year as “Y” Sports Dinner chairman, Rabbi Allan Green -who gave the benediction, Rady JCC President Debbie Hoffman, Rady JCC Executive Director Gayle Waxman, M.C. Jim Toth of TSN Sports, Ernie Nairn, Mayor Brian Bowman, and Premier Brian Pallister. O Canada and Hatikvah were performed beautifully by Elliot Lazar, with Connor Derraugh on piano.
And then, it finally occurred to me that for the first time ever in the long history of the Sports Dinner you could have set your watches, to the second, at precisely six o’clock and we were well underway.
My sole conclusion was that on that same evening, two crucial NHL playoff games were being televised and this was a sports crowd of approximately 1400 charitably-minded individuals, of whom the vast majority no doubt had more than a passing those games.
 I had also learned earlier in the evening that Teemu lamented not being able to see his Ducks, who had retired his number 8 jersey and hung it from the rafters, face the Edmonton Oilers in Game seven. Anaheim was the team he played with the longest and with whom he won his first Stanley Cup in 2007.
 Did you also know that the remarkable Selanne has also been rated among the top 100 players in the history of the NHL? Several names I am sure you will recall, in no particular order: Mike Bossy, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk, Andy Bathgate, Rocket Richard, Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon, Bobby Orr, Guy LaFleur, Bobby Hull, Denis Potvin, and Ted Lindsay to name but a few. Now doesn’t that take your breath away when Teemu’s name is included?
I also located another little pearl regarding perhaps one of the best headline speakers the Rady JCC has ever delivered: “In 1997 and 1998, a well known automobile race known as the World Rally Championship was held in Finland and drew a host of top drivers, along with an interloper who gave his name as Teukka Salama - who didn’t come close to winning, but by all accounts found the experience exhilarating nonetheless.
“This is not at all surprising considering how the driver later became renowned from the northern tip of Europe to the southern coast of California and many places in between.
“Salama’s real name after all was Teemu Selanne, a.k.a., ‘The Finnish Flash.’ a man who was a Ferrari on skates, a right wing with a stride as smooth and fluid as hot syrup and who moved so fast he would’ve left rubber if it were possible to do such a thing on a sheet of ice.”
The very capable M.C. for the evening, Jim Toth, did a splendid job interviewing Teemu on stage - a format that the dinner committee adopted in recent years and that draws out the celebrity much better, puts the guest at ease and heightens the interest of the audience. In the past the keynote guy or gal would arrive with a prepared speech and deliver a message which didn’t always hit the spot.
If nothing else we learned that Selanne was, and always has been, a first class mensch. He spoke from the heart about his early beginnings when he was selected by the Jets in the first round, 10th overall in  the 1988 NHL Draft.
“I was 18 when I came here,” he said. “I didn’t think I was ready.” GM John Ferguson, who drafted him, told Teemu that he was ready and that he wasn’t going anywhere.
Teemu also talked about how memorable his four years were in our city and how much he enjoyed living here.” I was honoured when people asked me for my autograph. When I was in school, I would practice my autograph. It’s easy to sign for fans. If I can I sign then I am happy to and also happy to take a picture with them too. I wanted to be part of Winnipeg and when the kids knocked at my door (in River Heights) and asked me to come out and play hockey with them, I was glad to do it.
“When it came to leaving here, I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t believe what happened. Everything happens for a reason.”
In addition, Selanne wasn’t so sure we’d be back in the NHL. “ I was happier than you guys that they’re back. You’re not that far away” (from being a contender).
How pleased was he for us that we snared the ultra-talented Patrik Laine second overall in the last draft? “I was happy. I stayed up in the middle of the night to watch the draft and was thrilled for Winnipeg getting Laine,” he said with the utmost sincerity.
The Honouree, BRYAN KLEIN, was born in Winnipeg, but his first decade was spent as a child in Kelvington, Saskatchewan in a home of few amenities. Like many families of Jewish origin, the kids when they were near Bar Mitzvah age sent their offspring to a Yiddish centre and young Klein returned to Winnipeg.
Bryan became the current Chair of the CJA campaign and played an important role in ensuring our community is strong and stable. His philanthropic work extends to all reaches of our city, from the Shaarey Zedek to Rainbow Stage to the Health Sciences Centre Foundation to the Children’s Museum, plus many more significant charities. A fair number of guests came especially to the dinner to honour this fine gentleman.
AthletesThis year’s Idy and Max Nusgart Memorial Award winner, presented to the Jewish Athlete of the Year, is provided with a bursary from the Fred Glazerman Memorial Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. This year’s winner was JEREMY LEIPSIC, 20, of the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, who enjoyed an outstanding season, compiling 33 goals and 67 assists in 60 regular season games, adding 7 goals and 8 helpers in post-season action, helping to lead  his team to the MJHL title. His brother Brendan Leipsic won this award in 2012 and is now a forward with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
An emotional Blair Worb spoke of the immense contributions made by the late KEN KRONSON - a gem if there ever was one - who died in early February. Worb noted that, were it not for the tireless efforts of Ken and a group of volunteers dating back to the early 70s, our community in multiple ways would have been all the poorer for it.  Worb also announced that, beginning with the 46th Rady JCC Sports 2018 Dinner, there was going to be a name change with Kronson’s name front and centre. Lest we forget.
The writer, a Jewish Winnipegger, is a former school teacher, and covers football and hockey for Canadian Press and Broadcast News.
Keep in touch with Sporting Touch. Send news about Jewish sports to Harvey Rosen, 360 Scotia Street, Winnipeg, Man., R2V 1W7, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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