Picard swinging for a special cause
Senators blueliner's golf tourney offers tribute to his former billet mom
|Senators defenceman Alex Picard will honour the memory of his junior hockey billet mom, Suzanne Foster, when he holds his first Omnium Alex Picard on Friday at the Tecumseh Golf Club in Gatineau (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
But the Ottawa Senators defenceman will always see it as Suzanne Foster's day, too.
About 190 golfers are set to tee off Friday at the Tecumseh Golf Club in Gatineau in Picard's inaugural charity tournament. Funds raised from the event are being directed toward the Fondation du CSSS de Gatineau, which supports heath care and hospital work in his hometown.
Even before the first tee off, Picard can declare the event an overwhelming success. He had pledged to raise $50,000 for the Fondation du CSSS over two years but has been blown away by the support he's already received from sponsors and participants.
"We didn't know how well this was going to go, but we're proud to say that we're probably going to beat our $50,000 goal in one year," said Picard. "It was a big surprise to me."
He smiles fondly when he tells the story of the woman who inspired it all. Foster was Picard's billet mom during his days with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"Suzanne was, for me, an adoptive mother during my stay in Halifax," Picard wrote on his website (www.alexpicard.com).
"Suzanne and her husband, Stephen, and their sons, Andrew and Geoffrey, welcomed me with open arms in their home in Nova Scotia."
Cancer claimed Suzanne Foster's life on May 10, 2005, the night of Picard's final junior game. The Mooseheads dropped Game 7 of the QMJHL final to the Rimouski Océanic that evening, but Picard said "it was nothing compared to what awaited me after the game." Hockey, he said, "took a secondary place" at that moment.
But the birth of the Omnium Alex Picard shows the Senators blueliner's desire to keep Foster's spirit alive. Picard is specifically targeting funds toward the cancer wing at the Gatineau hospital, where his father, Mario, works as an orderly.
"It was always something I wanted to do in (Foster's) memory," he said. "This year, being in Ottawa, and having the time to do this on my days off (from training) and working with the people at the hospital that my father knows, we were able to build this, and I think it's going to be a really good thing."
He's also assembled quite an impressive collection of autographed jerseys for a silent auction (view the list of contributors here), which will be held following the post-golf dinner that concludes the day. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and teammates Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Chris Phillips all provided items. Picard's agent, Pat Brisson, used his connections to secure signed jerseys from Alex Ovechin of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Another friend, Oilers goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, solicited contributions from Edmonton teammates Ales Hemsky and Sheldon Souray.
"I didn't think things were going to go this smoothly," Picard said of the success the tournament has quickly enjoyed. "But I have a good committee and we all put a lot of hours into it, including myself. It's something that keeps you busy in the summer."