Monday 19 March 2012

Sports Celebrity Breakfast a smashing affair

I was pleased and honoured to be one of the organizers and emcees for the eighth  annual Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors Foundation Sports Celebrity Breakfast on Sunday, March 18. The $160,000 in proceeds from the event went to support Seniors in Crisis, a program that delivers much needed assistance to seniors who are unable to financially look after their needs. The event attracted more than 600 people and was sold out months in advance.

You can see the excellent CTV report  below:

Indeed I like to tell the story about how this event all began. Nine years ago I decided that I wanted to start preparing a run to become a Côte Saint-Luc city councillor.   The demerger referendums had confirmed that Côte Saint-Luc, along with a number of other municipalities, would regain their independence in 2006. It was at the time I was soul searching that Harold Greenspon called. For more than two decades Harold was the de facto minister of finance for Côte Saint-Luc council and it was the district he represented that I had my eyes on. I told Harold of my ambitions and that I did not want to run against him. He indicated that it was unlikely he would return to politics and if I helped him start a Sports Celebrity Breakfast for the Cummings Centre he would in fact back me.

Well, we started from scratch, built a small committee and pulled off an event which attracted a few hundred people and raised some $10,000. That is pretty good considering the fact it was intended as a break even affair.

After a few years at the helm, Harold handed the chairmanship over to mega-sports fan and successful businessman Michael Wagen. Since then the event has been integrated into  a successful Cummings Centre Foundation, which Wagen also serves as president. There is really nothing else quite like this in the city. I also must make mention of Susan Rozansky, our event coordinator. Without her, there would be no Breakfast.

The  guest of honour for this year’s Sports Breakfast was Alan Maislin, who has been involved in sports all of his life at the amateur and professional levels. In recent years he served as the president of the  Israeli Ice Hockey Federation.  Alan was in fact the first honourary chair of this event.

Israel’s Consul General for Quebec  and the Maritimes, Joel Lion, assisted in the presentation of a Leadership Award to Maislin. Mr. Lion is a gem of an individual. He has only been here since late August and I already consider him to be a good friend.

Wagen was presented with an award fittingly named after  Greenspon Award in recognition for the critical role he has played in making this one of the most anticipated events on the Jewish sports calendar.  

You can watch the exciting introductions of the celebrities below:

The big surprise was the presence of three players from the Montreal Canadiens – forwards Max Pacioretty and Louis Leblanc and  defenceman PK Subban. Because their appearances could really  not be confirmed until the morning of the event, we decided to keep it quiet. The audience broke out in thunderous ovations when these stars were introduced.

Wagen, Pacioretty, Lion, Cromartie, Leblanc, Carbonneau, Lazarus
Former Montreal Expos player Warren Cromartie was on hand to take part in a special tribute to legendary catcher Gary Carter, who recently lost his battle with cancer. Johnny Elias, a longtime friend of Carter and a veteran coach at the Maccabiah Games level, was part of the ceremony as well. Rapper Annakin Slayd introduced his fitting video tribute to Carter and there was not a dry eye in the house. Even Cromartie had trouble getting his words out. Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather announced that we will name our main baseball field in Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park after Carter. 

Here is the Slayd video:

Other guests  included former Canadiens  captain and head coach Guy Carbonneau, recently arrived Chief Operating Officer Kevin Gilmore, former head coach Jean Perron (the coach of the Israeli National Team), former NHL defencemen Igor Kravchuk and Bobby Dollas and Shea Emry, Ray Lalonde and Eric Lapointe of the Montreal Alouettes.

John Bartlett and Dick Irvin.

On hand from the media were Hockey Night in Canada legend Dick Irvin  Dave Stubbs and Herb Zurkowsky of The MontrealGazette, Brian Wilde of CTV and Tony Marinaro, Conor McKenna, John Bartlett,  Matthew Ross  and Dave Kaufman from TSN Radio 990.  

Kravchuk, Wilde and Subban.

Prominent attorney Morden “Cookie” Lazarus served as honourary chair.  A live auction for a variety of sports memorabilia was moderated by standup comic Joey Elias, a co-host of Montreal which broadcast live from the event. Give this show a listen. Noted radio personality Ted Bird is one of the colourful co-hosts. My good friend and colleague Kosta Papoulias, who made a wonderful video for the Breakfast which played on the big screens, is a producer.
Wagen, Maislin, Lazarus and Lion.

The Cummings Centre is a 6,500 participant, non-profit, community organization. It offers a full continuum of programs and services to the 50 plus community, from those who function autonomously to those who have become frail.  Seniors can take advantage of programs both on-campus at the Snowdon Facility or off-campus at three suburban locations.  The educational, social, recreational, and cultural programs include classes such as bridge, computers, film and book reviews, Jewish culture, global affairs, languages, literature, performing arts, recreation and leisure.  The  Centre also houses a fine arts department, craft and wellness centres and adapted exercise programs.  Their cafeteria offers dine-in or take-out kosher meals.
Pacioretty and wife Katia chat with Marinaro.

Wagen, Senior Vice-President of the Delmar Group, notes how only 39 percent the Centre’s funding comes from Federation CJA.   “It's hard to believe,” he explains “but one in five  Montreal Jewish seniors live  below the poverty line. Our presence in their lives is crucial to their well-being”

The Foundation, Wagen explains provides crucial support to the agency. "This is done through charitable bequests, endowment funds, donations of marketable securities, corporate sponsorship. Our annual initiatives include tribute cards, mitzvah meals, the sports celebrity breakfast and the governors program."

In addition to Susan Rozansky, hats off to Cummings Centre executive director Herb Finkelberg, Cathy Simons and Melissa Margles of the Foundation and communications chief Michael Beigleman.


  1. Congrats to all the individuals that organized the event and thank you to all the sports and media celebrities that make it a success year after year.

  2. Very neat flag We sell the best Sports Fan Gear such as Sports Memorabilia and other Gifts for a Sports Fan. Find the Sports Fan Gear You need for your next Sporting Event! Order today.