TORONTO – Ron Ellis wasn’t sure about being the co-star of a fundraising dinner but was quickly won over by the cause.
So the former Leaf winger signed on for “Twins: A Toast to Ron Ellis and Dennis Hull, ” an Oct. 1 gala dinner at the Mattamy Athletic Centre—formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens. Money raised from the evening will go towards a concussion clinic and research program at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
“I had my share of concussions and my doctors believe it led to some problems with depression I’ve had later in life.” Ellis said in an interview. “So it’s very dear to my heart. . . . But I have to admit I just didn’t know if Mr. Hull and I would have enough draw power.”
With the formidable Sheryn Posen at the helm, the dinner has already proved to be a rousing success. With some 670 tickets sold, there was just one table left for the dinner as of Thursday.
Posen hopes the evening, which features a who’s who from hockey and 12 other sports, will raise some $300,000.
And she says while everyone recognizes the dinner’s worthwhile cause, people want to pay tribute to Ellis and Hull.
“Dennis and Ronnie have affected so many players and so many people in different ways,” said Posen, the former CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Dr. Mark Bayley, medical director of the brain and spinal cord rehab program at the Toronto Rehabilitation (University Health Network), says the money raised will go to concussion research and clinical care.
“The vast majority of this will be focusing on developing a clinic where innovative approaches to concussion recovery are implemented,” Bayley said.
The goal is to have researchers and clinical specialists working and learning hand-in-hand.
While concussions have become a hot topic in sports, they happen all across the board.
“Right across the spectrum of both age as well as the community and any sector, we see concussions,” Bayley said.
He points to worksite injuries and falls—”increasingly in the elderly, unfortunately.”
Bayley also hopes to use innovations from other Toronto Rehab departments to help with concussion.
And there is still much to learn.
“We still don’t have any real evidence-based treatment to improve the speed of recovery from a concussion,” Bayley said. “So we have lots of things to manage concussions, such as providing people with education, telling them to rest until their symptoms are settling a bit.
“And when they have persistent problems, we can help them a little with their headaches and other symptoms. But when it comes to speeding recovery from concussion, we do not have any evidence-based treatments that have been proven solidly to make people get better from a concussion faster.
“So that’s really an interesting question for us. Is there anything that could be used to prove recovery?”
Ellis and Hull aren’t twins, of course. But they have plenty in common other than the fact both are 69.
They played junior against each other, turned pro the same year and both were members of Team Canada at the 1972 Summit Series.
Ellis, a lifelong Maple Leaf, called it quits after the 1980-81 season. He left the sport with 332 goals and 308 assists for 640 points from 1,034 games.
Hull, the young brother of Bobby Hull, retired after the 1997-78 season with 303 goals and 351 assists for 654 points from 959 games, spending all his career with Chicago with the exception of a final season with Detroit.
Amazingly both men rank sixth in career scoring for their team with 640 points.
The Summit Series cemented their friendship.
“With everything we went though in that series, we did become a band of brothers,” said Ellis. “A bond developed there that no one can split. Our guys are very close and there’s an awful lot of respect for each other.
“I particularly became closer to Dennis through that series, as well as many others that I played against.”
The Summit Series veterans stay in touch, with an annual Team Canada golf tournament a focal point. They also meet on the dinner circuit where Hull is a much sought-after speaker.
“We cross paths a lot,” said Ellis, who has spent more than 20 years working at the Hockey Hall of Fame. “We do keep in touch.”
And in 2012, Ellis, Hull and 13 other members of the Canadian team returned to Russia to mark the 40th anniversary of the series.
For more information on the Twins dinner, go to www.twinstoast.ca