By Stefan Kubus -
PLYMOUTH – Former Detroit Red Wings took to the ice at Compuware Ice Arena in Plymouth Friday night to face off against police officers from various metro-Detroit cities in a charity event benefiting a fallen West Bloomfield officer.
Patrick O’Rourke – a 12-year veteran of the West Bloomfield Police Department – was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 9.
Former Red Wing Joe Kocur and his Joe Kocur Foundation For Children sponsored the event that saw a sellout crowd pack the arena well beyond its capacity of 3,504. Kocur managed to collect over $100,000 before the game even began, and presented a giant check to the O’Rourke family at center ice before puck drop. All proceeds from the event were also to be donated to the O’Rourke Family Trust.
“It was a little numbing,” Kocur said. “We’ve been working at this for about two months now and every day we get an update on the money we raised. It was pretty emotional today to see the family and see the tears in the family’s eyes, the tears of joy.”
Among the Red Wing alumni participating in the game were Hall of Famers Igor Larionov, Dino Ciccarellii, Larry Murphy and Mickey Redmond. Also, suiting up for the Red Wings’ side, the “Grind Line” of Kris Draper, Darren McCarty and Kirk Maltby, goaltender Chris Osgood, and Jiri Fischer.
Chris Chelios also donned the red and white sweater once more for Friday night’s game.
Behind the benches, it was Hall of Famers Ted Lindsay and Bill Gadsby. For the national anthem, it was none other than the Red Wings’ own Karen Newman.
Prior to the anthem, there were opening ceremonies celebrating the life of O’Rourke. As Kocur escorted O’Rourke’s wife and kids to center ice, the crowd rose and stood there, giving a bone-chilling ovation. Kocur presented the O’Rourke family with a $100,055 check. Just after, a moment of silence was observed in memory of O’Rourke, the late Budd Lynch and the families involved in the Newtown, Conn. Sandy Hook tragedy.
Kocur said he believes that, with the help of concession sales, the total amount raised for the family will be much, much higher.
“We’ve got the raffle, beer sales, some concessions…I’m assuming we’re going to get to $150,000,” Kocur said after the game. “It’s just been amazing. Deep down, I was hoping for six figures, and we well exceeded that. We’re lucky; it was a perfect storm for us.”
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Kocur said with a smile of scoring the first goal in a game. “Hey, the last time that happened was the ’98 Cup Finals against Washington.”
McCarty, donning a toque in place of a helmet, would add a goal shortly after, as would Chris Chelios and Maltby. The law enforcement would not be denied, however, scoring three straight goals to make it 4-3 after the first period.
During the intermission following the first period, there was a live auction on ice featuring signed game-worn jerseys, right off the back of the Red Wings’ alumni. Additionally, signed memorabilia, gift certificates and more were raffled off, all of which benefitted the O’Rourke Family Trust.
Chelios skated off with the bragging rights, as his sweater raked in the highest amount, an astonishing total of $5,100, following a bidding war between two parties. Overall, more than $21,000 was raised from the live auction.
“This is just a tribute to the Red Wing fans,” Kocur said of the turnout at the intermission, following the crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to him.
The third period brought about as much scoring as the first frame did, only at a back-and-forth pace, with Chelios adding two more goals for the hat-trick.
The law enforcement would strike back with a tally to make it 8-6 after, but Larionov would make it a 9-6 game to cap things off.
But without a doubt, who scored was not important tonight. And the players themselves know that more than anyone else.
“It was a great event,” McCarty started. “[Kocur] presented over a thousand-dollar check and plus, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg when Cheli’s jersey goes for $5,100, and we raise over probably $15,000 in jerseys.
“That’s what this community is all about. That’s what being a Michigander is all about… Today was not about us. Us showing up is a great reason to get together and to hang out and have fun, but all the people that showed up, they’re the real heroes here.”
McCarty’s fellow former “Grind Line” winger echoed similar thoughts on the event.
“If you just think of the last six months with what’s happened, especially recently in Connecticut and with this, and when the family comes out with the four little ones… When you have your own little ones, you’re thankful,” Maltby said. “When Joey presented that check, I thought it was maybe going to be like $20,000-30,000. I didn’t know it was going to be that much, plus all the jerseys after that, so it’s definitely well, well worth it.”