Annual Dawg Bowl is about more than just hockey

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By Michael Hicks

The initials JK emblazed the jersey of every player in the Survivor Game.
JK was Jack Kelly, a beloved husband, father and hockey player who passed away from an auto-immune disease in April 2010. He was also a member of the Dawg Nation.
Four years ago, Martin Richardson, Mike Pijanowski and members of the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation started the Dawg Bowl, a weekend-long adult hockey tournament to pay tribute to Kelly, to their other fellow hockey mates and to raise funds to help those in need.
“It shows a sign of support for what they’ve been through,” said Pijanowski, vice president of the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation. “It’s just a huge show of support for everybody and what they’ve gone through.”
Forty teams in seven divisions played for four days at the Edge Ice Arena from June 19-22 to not just raise funds but to help wherever they could. In addition to the games on the ice, there was a silent auction for autographed memorabilia, gift certificates and furniture, plus merchandise sales, a barbeque, a kid’s zone and much more. This wasn’t just a way to pay tribute; this was a celebration.
The Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation has raised more than $400,000 since its inception, and Richardson, the foundation’s president, expected that number to reach well over $500,000 by the end of the weekend. Checks were handed out four times during the weekend to help those involved in the hockey community who are in need of financial assistance.
One of those being helped this year was hockey official David Topping, who had a brain tumor removed recently and is coping with minor brain damage.
Among those in attendance at this year’s Dawg Nation hockey tournament were the Denver Cutthroats. Team owner John Hayes saw the opportunity not only to get the word out about his franchise, but even more so, to give back to the community.
“One of the reasons I started the Cutthroats was to actually give back to the community,” he said. “I got a chance to meet the Dawg Nation people. I fell in love with it, so much so that when they asked me to join their board, I did.”
But the Dawg Bowl is a non-profit event that touches Hayes like none other. That’s because his college buddy and former Cutthroats executive Greg Smith passed away from cancer last November.
“I’ve lost my father and my partner with the Cutthroats,” Smith said. “(Greg) died last Thanksgiving Day from cancer. So this is more than doing the right thing. This is personal for me.”
The hockey tournament is one of three major fund-raisers put on annually by the Dawg Nation Hockey Foundation. It also hosts a golf tournament and a comedy night. And with each, the intention is the same, Richardson said.
“Really the best thing for Mike and I and all our volunteers is being able to help someone at the end of the day,” Richardson said.

Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.