By Elliotte Friedman, CBC.ca – Thirteen years ago, Mike Vellinga was an OHL champion (with the Guelph Storm) and a Blackhawks’ seventh-round draft pick. A tough, hard-shooting defenceman, he was willing to do whatever it took to fulfill his dream of making the NHL.
While Vellinga never made it that far, his 10-team, 11-year, 710-game journey through four different leagues did bring him another gift: his wife, the former Andrea Voss, and their daughter, Lydia, now 4. Vellinga retired after the 2008-09 season, as the three moved closer to Andrea’s family in Pendleton, Ind.
On Aug. 13, she was excited to see the country duo Sugarland at the Indiana State Fair. She had tickets; real good seats.
You may have heard what happened that night. Under the pressure of heavy winds, the stage collapsed. Seven people were killed and many others seriously injured. Andrea Vellinga was one of them.
Friday night, the Storm lost their home opener, 6-4 to Owen Sound. But the game was almost secondary to a night of fundraising that collected $15,000. Guelph alumni Jeff O’Neill and Dan Cloutier returned to sign autographs and do whatever was necessary. Former coach George Burnett donated items, as did Bruins winger Daniel Paille. (Paille sent two tickets to a Bruins/Jets game, two nights at a hotel and private dinner from a chef.)
The fan base was very generous, passing buckets around the Sleeman Centre stands, adding to the total.
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