Stride with us to champion women and girls in sport and recreation! By amplifying the voices of past, present and future game changers in our communities, we can inspire others and make an impact. Learn more about our GAME CHANGERS.
Michael Weiss and his company Weiss Realty Ltd., have supported Alzheimer’s Research at Baycrest Hospital via the Baycrest Pro-Am Hockey tournament since 2008. Michael is establishing an all-female team for the 2024 event, and as one of our three winners of the 2023 Game Changers Campaign, directed his funds towards the women’s teams registration fees.
This annual tournament seamlessly blends the joys of the game with a noble cause, raising funds for Alzheimer’s research at Baycrest Hospital. Since it began, this tournament has not only become a beacon of support for an important cause but also a unique platform where everyday players and hockey enthusiasts share the ice with their NHL idols and women’s Olympic hockey champions. Along with sharing Michael’s experiences of the event, we engaged with organizers about their efforts towards increasing diversity within the tournament.
The Baycrest Pro-Am Hockey Tournament supports Alzheimer’s research at Baycrest Hospital. This is a great initiative, please tell us more about the history and experience of the tournament.
The Baycrest Pro-Am started in 2007 and it’s done through Baycrest Hospital to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research. The charity has raised about 20 billion to date for research. The way it works is that regular people go out and form teams or join existing teams.
You have a 3-game tournament and get to hang out with these all-stars for the weekend. You eat with them, drink with them and it’s a very fun experience. The team captain gets to pick the team jersey, which can be NHL replicas with the Baycrest logo. The whole tournament is well done, classy and they don’t miss a thing.
It starts off on a Thursday night with a big banquet, with opportunities to get autographs and chat with pros as they let their guard down. They’ll often start telling you stories of personal challenges and successes. It was a lot of fun.
Could you explain the significance of establishing a women’s team in the Baycrest Pro-Am hockey tournament and how it supports inclusivity in the sport?
The Scotiabank Pro-Am Hockey Tournament in in support of Baycrest offers the ultimate hockey experience for amateur hockey players and fans of the game, inviting them to play with and against a host of high-profile NHL Alumni and Olympians. Baycrest greatly values and appreciates the diversity of the sport of hockey and with this, we are continuously looking for ways to welcome more females onto the ice. In recent years, we’ve focused on welcoming female Olympians to compete as drafted players and share their journeys on our event stage. Currently, we are engaging our networks of female players to grow our female league offered at the 2024 tournament. It is only by growing the Pro-Am with a diverse player base that Baycrest can continue to promote good sportsmanship in the name of raising funds to defeat dementia.
Who are some of the NHL Alumni and Women Olympic champions that participate in the Tournament? How does their presence contribute to the fundraising efforts for Alzheimer’s research?
In 2023, we had Team Canada Olympians such as Tessa Bonhomme, Brianne Jenner, Renata Fast and Jayna Hefford, as well as NHL alumni Scott Gomez, Mark Recchi, Wendel Clark, Todd Bertuzzi, and many more. Their participation sets the Scotiabank Pro Am for Alzheimer’s apart from other charity hockey tournaments and serves to motivate our players to want to fundraise as much as possible to support Baycrest’s mission to defeat dementia as well as become a top fundraising team that will allow a top draft pick on Pro Am’s Draft Night held before the tournament. Each team will play with one of these alumni for the weekend and get to be with them in the dressing room, on the ice and everything in between.
How do you see the tournament bridging the gap between everyday hockey players and their hockey heroes, creating a unique and memorable experience?
The Pro-Am strives to connect the Olympians & NHL Alumni with the everyday hockey fan and afford them the opportunity to get a glimpse into what it’s like to be on the ice with their hockey heroes. Whether you’re an avid hockey fan or the “weekend warrior”, there is something special about getting to hang out in the dressing room with a hockey superstar and talk to them as if you are actually teammates with them. Our alumni and Olympians understand this unique aspect of the event and really enjoy getting to know their respective teams, listen to music, have lunch and play with them. At the end of the day, every player, alumni and Olympian in the pro-am loves the game of hockey and they get to share that love with one another
What are the long-term goals of the tournament?
Our long term goals of the tournament are to expand our reach to less represented demographics in the game of hockey and showcase what equality in sports can and should be. Recruiting more women’s teams, BIPOC hockey teams, 2SLGBTQ+ hockey teams, etc. Additionally, we want to continue to be leaders in the community for Alzheimer’s research to support aging brain health with all funds from the tournament going back to Baycrest. Growing the Scotiabank Pro-Am for Alzheimer’s in support of Baycrest every year is our mission and together we can help more people defeat dementia.
How do teams get involved to play in the tournament? How can individuals and organizations get involved in supporting the tournament as participants, sponsors, or volunteers?
To get involved, each team needs a captain to sign up and register their team. Registration is $175 for returning players and 50% off for new players that haven’t played in the past 2 years. Once signed up, a captain can begin recruiting their teammates to a max of 15 players and kickstart their fundraising efforts. Each team must satisfy the following conditions to play in the event:
- Each player must fundraise a minimum of $500
- Each team must collectively fundraise a minimum of $15,000 to play in the event (assigned an alumni for 2 games)
- Teams that fundraise $25,000 or more will get to draft an alumni on stage at draft night and play with them for the whole weekend
Sponsorship is available and can be discussed with our sponsorship manager Stacey Carcao (SCarcao@baycrest.org, 416-785-2500, ext. 6512)
Volunteer positions are available in a variety of roles on game day and draft night and can be submitted to Nicole Francis (firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-785-2500, ext.6587)