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Charity Affair Unveils New Wines Honoring Retirees

09/11/2008 2:51 PM

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Former NHL great Bobby Hull will be honored as the NHL Alumni Association's Man of the Year Thursday night at the organization's seventh annual Gala Dinner, presented by Scotiabank.

The event gets under way at 6 p.m. in the Westin Harbour Castle in downtown Toronto. As always, the NHL Alumni Association will be raising money for charity. It's a dual-charity event this year. Benefitting from the dinner will be "Hockey's Greatest Family Fund," which helps former players who are in need.

The event will also support the 1st Lt. Derek Hines Soldiers Assistance Fund that offers help to Massachusett's soldiers that have incurred serious, career-ending and/or life-altering injuries while on active duty.

Hines was one of us, a four-year college-hockey player at Army, the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. A native of Newburyport, Mass., Hines was a member of the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment who died Sept. 1, 2005, while on duty in Baylough, Afghanistan.

Hull was one of us, too, a dominant player for 15 NHL seasons, 1957-72, who then went on to a seven-year career in the World Hockey Association before returning in 1979 to the NHL when his team, the Winnipeg Jets, was one of four WHA teams admitted to the NHL. Hull was a muscular left winger who led the Chicago Blackhawks to the 1961 Stanley Cup. He combined strength and speed with a slapshot measured at nearly 120 mph.

The NHL Alumni Association is also launching another fundraising effort to benefit more than a dozen other charities. The NHLAA has joined with Ironstone Vineyards and Artemis Sports Group to present the NHL Alumni Signature Wine Series, all bearing a gold-relief likeness of some of hockey's greatest legends.

Eleven different players will be honored in the original group of releases: Hull, Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Mike Richter, Tony Esposito, Dave Schultz, Bobby Clarke, Clark Gillies, Rod Gilbert, Pat LaFontaine and Rob Ray. Later releases will feature Darryl Sittler, Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour.

"As well as supporting our Alumni Association charity, a portion of the proceeds will go to 11 different charities chosen by the players, so it's all for a great cause,” said Mark Napier, NHLAA executive director and an 11-year NHL veteran who won Stanley Cups with the 1979 Montreal Canadiens and 1985 Edmonton Oilers.

"As well as supporting our Alumni Association charity, a portion of the proceeds will go to 11 different charities chosen by the players, so it's all for a great cause.” - Mark Napier
Napier might have added that Ironstone Vineyards, of Murphys, Calif., is California's largest winery entertainment complex, a beautiful facility in the Sierra foothills with wine-aging caves hand-dug out of Calaveras Schist Rock by the Kautz family, one of the top ten wine-grape growing operations in the state.

The temptation to describe these wines in the style of wine connoisseurs, mixing in hockey attributes is too great to avoid. Think of the descriptions in Oenophiles' terms:

Dave Schultz's Chardonnay -- Packs a punch, a rugged drink that makes no apologies for its rough edges.

Clark Gillies Chardonnay -- A big, full-bodied, approachable drink that every time you return to it, you realize it's a winner.

Bobby Clarke's Cabernet Sauvignon -- A feisty drink determined to stand out in a crowd and overcome an early impression of a brash flash-in-the-pan. A leader in its category.

Rod Gilbert's Chardonnay -- The smoothest of the smooth, goes well with everything and a drink that will retain its popularity through the generations.

Bobby Hull's Chardonnay -- A big, booming, full-bodied taste that will leave you wondering what hit you.

Pat LaFontaine's Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay
-- Both wines recognized for the consistency of their qualities. A gift that keeps on giving. A drink you'll love for years to come.

Ted Lindsay's Cabernet Sauvignon -- Aged significantly longer than all but one on this list, this wine must be approached carefully or it will sneak up on you and leave you hammered. Don't sell this one short. Has the potential to be the biggest money-maker in the group.

Mike Richter's and Tony Esposito's Cabernet Sauvignons
-- Two well-loved wines that have stood the test of time and that we can't get enough of.

Rob Ray's Cabernet Sauvignon
-- Notable for its battered nose, earthy tones redolent of smelling salts and a full-bodied bouquet that hints of cauliflower ears and stitches. A regional favorite.

Gordie Howe's Chardonnay -- Simply the best. Soon to be a beloved and welcome addition to your wine cellar. A long-lasting, superior drink.

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