Sunday, 29 March 2015

Another successful Sports Celebrity Breakfast

I always like to begin my recaps of the annual Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors Foundation Sports Celebrity Breakfast with a little bit of history. Twelve years ago former Côte Saint-Luc City Councillor Harold Greenspon approaches to me to help create such an event from scratch. A deal was reached when he agreed to back me in the next municipal election and endorse me to succeed him in District 2.
PK Subban and young Daniel Lebovits

The Sports Breakfast began as an event to bring some recognition to the Centre and raise a few dollars. I believe we netted $10,000 at the inaugural event. But when Greenspon recruited Michael Wagen, the Senior Vice-President of Delmar International, to succeed him the Breakfast took on a different image. Over the past 11 years we have raised well more than $1 million for senior in crisis. It is perhaps the only event of its kind in the city and regularly sells out. The 600 tickets for this year were gone weeks ago. See this report from CTV.

Wagen has now been joined by Bram Naimer, president of Union Lighting, as co-chair. Morden "Cookie" Lazarus is the honourary chair, but really much more than that. Without his wealth of contacts we would not be able to recruit many of the marquee guests on our list.
Coordinator Susan Rozansky, Foundation boss Cathy Simons, and a dedicated committee make this is one well oiled machine.  
Mahovlich, Lazarus, Fisher and Irvin,

This year's event at the Gelber Conference Centre featured a special tribute to Mitch Garber while former Montreal Canadiens star Peter Mahovlich was honoured as the Sports Personality of the Year.

Garber is the CEO of Caesars Acquisition Co., a public company (CACQ) on the NASDAQ which owns the World Series of Poker, Playtika, the second largest social and mobile games business in the world, Las Vegas strip casinos Planet Hollywood, Bally's, The Cromwell, The Linq, as well as Harrah's New Orleans and The Horseshoe Baltimore. For many years he hosted a popular sports talk show on Montreal radio and along with Breakfast Honourary Chair Morden “Cookie” Lazarus he was instrumental in bringing the Montreal Alouettes franchise back to town. He also a noted philanthropist, supporting many charities in Canada and Israel.
Melnick, Garber and Leonoff.
Mahovlich was a member of four Stanley Cup championship Montreal Canadiens teams. He enjoyed a breakout season in 1970–71, scoring 35 goals in the regular season and another 10 in the playoffs. His best year came in 1974–75, when he racked up 117 points. He hit the 100-point mark again the following year, finishing with 105.In his 16-year NHL career, he totalled 288 goals and 485 assists for 773 points in 884 games. Internationally, he was a member of the 1972 Summit Series.

Joel Leonoff and sports talk show host Mitch Melnick paid tribute to Garber. Leonoff is a friend and former business partner; Melnick a friend as well who has an interesting broadcast history with Garber. Leonoff shared a story that he and Garber had a chance to buy hotmail.com for $80 million. They laughed at the owner for asking that much, but giggled no more when Microsoft picked it up for $450 million. Garber, who like Leonoff, is a self-made millionaire and gigantic success story, is also a great public speaker and he hit all the right notes in his address.

Mahovlich was presented with his plaque by Lazarus and then interviewed on stage by legendary broadcaster Dick Irvin and equally legendary writer Red Fisher, who covered the Habs for 58 years. Fisher, at 88, is sharp as can be and had everyone roaring in the aisles with his anecdotes of years past.
Stubbs with Lafleur, Savard and Cournoyer.

A few of  Mahovlich’s high profile former teammates were on hand: Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer and Serge Savard. Present-day superstar defenceman PK Subban was in the house as was Habs  Chief Operating Officer Kevin Gilmore.  Former Montreal Alouette star receiver Ben Cahoon flew in from Utah while  current Als Jeff Perrett and Kyries Hebert were there. Former Montreal Expos pitcher Don Stanhouse, Montreal Impact technical director and Herzliah High School grad Adam Braz and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre were among the others with us.  Coderre was a real hit, with his heart very much into  the return of the Expos to this city.
Stubbs, Zurkowsky, myself and my brother Chuck in honour of our late dad.
The event also honoured Montreal Gazette sports reporter Herb Zurkowsky with the Larry Fredericks Media Award.  Larry (Lawrence Frederick Cohen) was my dad. He passed away two and a half years ago and served on the committee. As a sportswriter for more than 40 years he met Herb early on his career and the two became close.  Here is a great story Herb wrote about the event.
Kyries Hebert

Other media on hand were  Dave Stubbs from The Gazette, Rick Moffat from TSN 690 and CJAD, Mitch Melnick from TSN 690, Dave Kaufman from CJAD,  Matthew Ross from TSN 690 and Randy Tieman from CTV.

Moffat  brought two kids from the audience to try and replicate his signature "goal" call for Impact broadcasts. The key is to say goal!!!!! as long as possible without taking a breath. This turned out to be quite a hit.

I served as emcee with broadcaster  Charles André Marchand.
Ben and Kim Cahoon.
The Cummings Centre is a leader in the provision of quality programs, professional social services and a wide range of volunteer opportunities to the 50+ community. The Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors Foundation aims to meet the philanthropic challenges and needs of the 50 plus population. For more information visit cummingscentre.org. 

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