The general managers of Vancouver’s three major professional sports teams will be under one roof in Chilliwack Oct. 27.
The first annual Chilliwack Sports Dinner presented by Royal LePage will include a round-table discussion with Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning, BC Lions head coach/GM Wally Buono and Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi.
“Having these three in the same room telling stories, with all they have done, will make for an amazing experience,” says Stuart Muxlow, owner of Wheeler Cheam Royal LePage, the title sponsor of this event. “Any sports enthusiast would jump at an opportunity to listen to these guys speak.”
Royal LePage has partnered with the Chilliwack Chiefs and the Chilliwack Sports Hall of Fame to host this gala.
It will be held at the Squiala Hall and will include a catered dinner and silent and live auctions.
“Royal LePage is a community-minded office and we love being involved in a variety of local events,” Muxlow says. “We were very excited when we were asked to partner in this event.”
“Royal LePage agents are passionate, some may even say fanatical, about sports. This is going to be an incredible event and we’re proud we can bring it to Chilliwack.”
Chilliwack Chiefs president Glen Ringdal played the key role in getting Benning, Buono and Lenarduzzi for the event.
A former front office heavyweight with the Canucks, Lions and Whitecaps, he placed a few phone calls and the three men were happy to sign on.
Lenarduzzi’s participation isn’t 100 per cent locked in, but if he misses it will be for a good reason.
“If the Whitecaps are in the playoffs then he doesn’t quite know where he’ll be,” Ringdal notes. “But he said he will make every effort to be there.”
“I got immediate responses from all three of them and they were happy, happy, happy to be a part of this.”
Benning is in his second year at the helm of the National Hockey League Canucks and has a Stanley Cup ring as assistant GM of the 2011 champion Boston Bruins.
As a player, Benning appeared in 753 regular season and playoff games.
He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1981-87 and was a Canuck defenceman from 1986-90. Benning collected 91 goals, 362 assists and 564 penalty minutes, retiring in 1992.
“He was with the Canucks when I was there and I knew him as a ‘Steady Eddie’ on the defence,” Ringdal says. “He was calm, collected and thoughtful person who operates with a plan.”
“That’s what he’s bringing to the Canucks today and I think he and Trevor (Linden) are building what is going to be a very strong organization going forward.”
Buono is a legendary figure in the Canadian Football League as its all-time winningest coach.
A four time CFL coach of the year, Buono has seven Grey Cup championships on his resume.
As a player, he was part of title teams with the 1974 and 1977 Montreal Alouettes.
As a head coach, Buono won three with the Calgary Stampeders (1992, 1998 and 2001) and two more with the Lions (2006 and 2011). Buono was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and he’s back on the BC sideline this year after a four-year hiatus.
“Wally is ‘it’ when it comes to football in Canada, but on top of that, what a gentleman,” Ringdal says. “He is a superb man in every aspect of his life, and he brings so much integrity, honesty and hard work to everything he does.”
“He is certainly a man to be admired.”
Lenarduzzi’s name is synonymous with the Whitecaps and Canadian soccer.
He represented his country 47 times in international competition, including the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.
Lenarduzzi’s Whitecaps tenure stretches back four decades to the now-defunct North American Soccer League.
He led the Whitecaps to the NASL title in 1979, winning the league’s player of the year award.
Lenarduzzi was the NASL’s all-time leader in games played (312) and, after retiring, became a successful executive.
He is a member of the North American Soccer Hall of Fame, the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame, the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame and the United Soccer Leagues Hall of Fame.
“You can’t mention soccer in Canada without mentioning Bob,” Ringdal says. “He’s brought style, credibility and a terrific sense of humour to everything he’s done, and he’s been the perfect leader for the Whitecaps as they’ve progressed in the MLS.”
The Sports Dinner presented by Royal LePage will also recognize the 2016 inductees into the Chilliwack Sports Hall of Fame.
This year’s class will be announced in August and CSHOF spokesman Barry Douglas looks forward to honouring them on this very special night.
“This is an amazing opportunity to celebrate excellence in sports,” he says. “Our Hall of Famers have achieved great things representing Chilliwack and deserve a night in the spotlight.”
“We are thrilled to share their stories and give them a night to remember.”
“And then, to hear from three men who’ve reached the absolute pinnacle of their sports, how could it get any better?”
See Friday’s Chilliwack Progress for information on his year’s CSHOF nomination process and follow @Chiefs_Hockey and @CHWKSportsHOF for updates on the Chilliwack Sports Dinner presented by Royal LePage.