Bulldog Hockey Classic-Alumni Golf Outing Proves To Be A BIG SUCCESS!
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Big Rapids, Mich. - The 27th annual Ferris State University Bulldog Hockey Classic-Alumni Golf Outing proved again to be a resounding success as former players and community supporters made the trek to Big Rapids for a full weekend slate of activities.
More than 170 golfers and 42 teams took part in Saturday's (Aug. 3) outing, which was officially sold out again while utilizing all 21 championship holes at FSU's Katke Golf Course.
"It was another highly-successful weekend for our program and we thank all the alumni and community for their support of this event," said FSU head coach Bob Daniels. "It has always been an enjoyable weekend and continues to grow each and every year. We're appreciative of all the efforts made by those who participanted and involved with this year's weekend activities."
Along with the golf outing, Saturday's events also included a morning reception for former players and coaches along with lunch at the course prior to the 18 holes of golf. A dinner and awards ceremony followed at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center.
More than 50 former players and staff members gathered for a group photo prior to the golf scramble and the list included a number of notable alumni who have made their marks professionally and returned for the weekend including current National Hockey League (NHL) First-Team All-Star Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins, defenseman Zach Redmond of the Winnipeg Jets, forward Greg Rallo of the the Florida Panthers along with the Grand Rapids Griffins' American Hockey League (AHL) Calder Cup Championship duo of head coach Jeff Blashill and defenseman Chad Billins.
"It's a special feeling when you can pick up with guys you might have seen three, four, five years ago," said Kunitz, a two-time Stanley Cup Champion who led the Bulldogs to their first Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) crown in 2002-03. "To have that special bond that you went to school together and played together, but you're still interested in each others' lives, it's something that's unique, I think, to a lot of hockey players.
"The success that Ferris State Hockey has had in the last decade is due in large part to how many people enjoy being a part of Bulldog Hockey," he added.
Former players and staff members like Blashill, who played goaltender at FSU from 1994-98 and later served as an assistant coach before embarking on a professional coaching career that included a season with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings in 2011-12, echoed Kunitz's thoughts.
"It's a tribute to Bob Daniels and his staff that this many people come back every year," he said. "It's also a tribute to Ferris State and all the special feelings we have for Ferris. I just think it's outstanding that everyone comes back for the weekend."
Many of the recent standouts were also on hand such as Billins and former All-America goaltender Taylor Nelson, who were several members participating from FSU's 2011-12 squad that reached the national championship game at the Frozen Four. A large part of the school's first regular-season championship squad from 2002-03 were also present while a number of older alumni from the Bulldogs' first seasons as a Division I hockey program more than 30 years ago were also on hand.
"It's pretty special to see all of these people," said Billins, who helped the Griffins' to the AHL Championship this past year as a rookie before signing an offseason deal with the NHL's Calgary Flames. "To have another turnout like this where it's been back-to-back sellouts for this event is pretty special to be a part of it.
"The community is a big part of why Bulldog Hockey has been so successful," he added. "They're always welcoming and ready to support the hockey program. To come back and drive around the city where you spent four years of college is pretty cool."
The evening banquet also included a tribute to longtime equipment manager Ben Mumah, who was recognized for recently working his 1,000th Bulldog Hockey game in 30 seasons at FSU during the 2012-13 campaign, which was FSU's final year in the CCHA. Recent graduate Travis Ouellette helped honor Mumah during the special evening event.
The weekend activities also included the annual Little Kevin Softball Game at Hemlock Park in Big Rapids on Friday night, which pitted local heroes from the police and firefighters force against Bulldog Hockey alumni followed by a downtown reception sponsored by the FSU Blueline Club.
The proceeds raised from Friday's event went to support the Little Kevin Hockey Fund, which was started by current Blueline Club president Kevin Courtney and his wife, Julie, nearly 10 years ago in honor of their five-year old son, Kevin Jr., who passed away. The fund has generated more than $63,000 since its inception and helps fund scholarships for youth who participate in the Big Rapids Area Junior Hockey Association and the Learn to Skate Program.
"It's obviously fun to see everyone, but we're also here to support the Courtney family," said Kunitz. "They hold a special place in all of our hearts for all of us who had some great times with their family."
In addition to thanking the community and several supporters along with university administration and staff members during the evening banquet, Daniels also thanked associate head coach Drew Famulak, who organizes the event each year, the staff at Katke Golf Course along with a special thanks to former players who return year after year.
"It's just an amazing weekend from the standpoint that number one, it's really wonderful to see all the older players and the younger players who come back year after year," he said. "The fact that they also come here and support such a great fund with the softball game knowing what Kevin Courtney has meant to our program, it's a great thing to see.
"I'm really proud of the guys for coming out here year after year and taking the time to come back," he added.
Courtney added that a special thanks goes out as well to the Bulldog coaching staff and Daniels in particular.
"You can't say enough nice things about Bob Daniels and the program and players he has reflects that," he said. "Those players don't grow up to become good men by accident. Bob has a lot of responsibility in that. The former players don't understand how much their coming back and participating in the game means to me. They're all just such a great bunch of guys."
The family-like relationship between the Bulldogs' program and the Big Rapids community is also a big reason why the players continue to come back year after year, according to Kunitz.
"The program definitely promotes the chemistry between players and building relationships," he said. "It's important to not only build relationships within the hockey program, but within the community as well. It's like bonding a family together. My whole life has been Ferris hockey, so there's a lot of good memories with this area."
Ferris State will embark on its first season in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) during the upcoming 2013-14 campaign. The Bulldogs wrapped up their final season of CCHA competition this past year and earned a first-round tournament bye for the fourth consecutive year, one of only two schools to accomplish the feat in the final four years of the league.
This past season's campaign came on the heels of a historic 2011-12 campaign in which Ferris State received its first-ever number one national ranking, won the CCHA regular-season championship, claimed the NCAA Midwest Regional crown and advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time in school history.
Ferris State will officially open the 2013-14 season on the road at Colgate in a non-league series set for Oct. 5-6 in Hamilton, N.Y. The regular-season home opener is set for Friday, Oct. 18, as FSU entertains St. Lawrence in Big Rapids with the squad's first WCHA home series slated for Nov. 8-9 versus Bemidji State.
Reserved season tickets are currently on sale with single-game sales beginning on Sept. 16. All reserved season tickets must be purchased directly thru the FSU Athletics Ticket Office located in the Ewigleben Sports Complex either in person or by phone. The office is open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET) at this time with extended hours being offered once the school year begins.
To purchase tickets or for additional information regarding season ticket packages, please call (231) 591-2888.
Note: Special thanks to the Big Rapids Pioneer (www.bigrapidsnews.com) for portions of this story.