NHL Players’ Association celebrates 10th anniversary of Goals & Dreams

TORONTO – Rob Zamuner and P.J. Stock are heading out on a road trip unlike any they ever experienced during their NHL careers.

Starting Friday in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, the former Boston Bruins teammates will visit 10 countries in as many days to hand out hockey equipment on behalf of the NHL Players’ Association Goals & Dreams fund. They’ll be joined by program chairman Devin Smith and program manager Matt Langen along with several former NHLers for individual stops along the way.

The itinerary will see the group travel around Europe before making the final two stops in New York (Nov. 21) and Toronto (Nov. 22) – a journey that will span more than 19,600 kilometres. Even though it will involve more than 30 hours of commercial air travel, Zamuner isn’t counting on getting much sleep during the flights.

“P.J. and I were roommates in Boston,” he said this week. “I think I have to keep one eye open with (him) around.”

A CBC film crew will document the journey for a piece that is expected to be aired on “Hockey Night in Canada” in December. Over the 10 days, the group will donate 360 sets of equipment – valued at over $180,000.

Among the former NHL players that will be present for stops in individual cities are: Pavel Bure, Adam Graves, Arturs Irbe, Jyrki Lumme, Jaroslav Modry, Markus Naslund, Martin Rucinsky, Martin Straka, Esa Tikkanen, John Vanbiesbrouck and Kevin Weekes.

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Zamuner will be there for the entire ride and is most looking forward to visiting Moscow, where they’ll hold an event in Red Square, and Sarajevo, Bosnia, where they’ll unite with a young boy that will be brought back to Toronto.

All along, they’ll be spreading one message.

“The goal is simple – to help kids play the sport of hockey,” said Smith. “On this tour, every day we’re going to see smiling kids. The same look on the face you’re going to see on Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, you’re going to see in Bosnia and you’re going to see when we get back to Toronto.”

Since being launched in 1999, the NHLPA’s Goals & Dreams fund has contributed $17 million worldwide and reached more than 40,000 kids. The money comes entirely from the members of the union.

Smith is the driving force behind the program and has spent roughly a year planning the current trip. He thought it was important to undertake a big project to celebrate the program’s 10-year anniversary.

“I just had this idea that we had to do something significant, we had to do something that makes an impact, we have to go back and visit where this program had benefited a lot of grassroots hockey programs,” he said. “It’s a pretty interesting tour. It wasn’t easy to put together.”