NHL legend entertains at Sports Dinner

An engaging speaker, amazing meal and wide array of unique auction items, all added up to one of best Neepawa Sports Dinners in the event’s history.

The eighth annual dinner was held on Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Yellowhead Hall, with just over 300 people taking part in this year’s festivities.  Neepawa Natives vice president Cam Tibbett served as the master of ceremonies for the night, which featured former NHLer and Hockey Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald as its guest speaker. McDonald shared many funny stories on his time in the National Hockey League, ranging from his early days with the Toronto Maple Leafs, his short stint with the woeful Colorado Rockies and his years with the powerful Calgary Flames teams of the 1980s’.

McDonald said it’s fun sharing stories of his playing days and that he’s very proud to participate in events like the Sports Dinner.

“I probably do eight to 10 of these [speaking engagements] in communities like this throughout the year. I love getting the chance to talk with people and it’s a great way to give back and have a little fun with people at the same time,” noted McDonald. “Early today, I sat down with the young men who are playing for your junior team. Sitting down and talking with them was very important. I always drive home the message that this time in their lives and in their careers should not be taken for granted.”

Natives general manager Myles Cathcart echoed those sentiments, noting that McDonald’s message for the players was very positive and that the lessons from it can be used both on and off of the ice.

The annual Neepawa Sportsperson of the Year award was also handed out during the dinner. For 2016, Rodney White received the honour. White’s local contributions to sports are multifaceted, as he grew up playing both minor hockey and baseball in Neepawa. White was instrumental in forming the Neepawa Farmers senior hockey team in 2010 and has been the team manager since its’ inception.  He is also vice-president and game scheduler for the Tiger Hills Hockey League. Currently, he plays hockey with the Farmers and in the summer, also plays baseball with the Neepawa Cubs of the Santa Clara Baseball League. In previous years, he also played with the Neepawa Farmers senior baseball team. On top of all those on-field efforts, he has also umped minor ball games in the past and still refs in minor hockey. If that were not enough, he’s also host committee chair for the 2017 Provincial Senior Baseball Championship, to be held in Neepawa next year.  White said this was a very unexpected honour.

The buffet style meal was put together by D & D Catering Services, with the pork for the main course donated by Hylife Foods, with the company also providing the services of its executive chefs. The pork, sides and wide variety of desserts all received rave reviews by the attendees.

Another important part of the evening’s festivities was the live auction. About a dozen items were up for bid, with Neepawa Natives board president Ken Waddell serving as the auctioneer. An unofficial estimates peg the auction amount raised at about $6,400, though those and more official results from the night, will likely be released within the next few weeks.