The Write Offs are anything but
Old-timers’ hockey crew keeps up long tradition of giving to Santa Fund
For Jim Dadson, hockey has a way of building lasting friendships, memories and traditions.
The 76-year-old Toronto native has embraced those values for more than 50 years now, playing pickup hockey most of his life and loving every minute of it.
“It’s just the feeling of it, getting together with everyone and playing, and for that one hour a week you are in the dressing room and on the ice and you can forget about everything else,” Dadson said.
Dadson, a former market researcher, says he’s “never played organized hockey in my life,” but has been faithful to the sport for half a century. His passion reflects a nationwide passion for hockey that often turns players into “lifers” who never wander too far from the rink.
Players young and old swap stories, share laughs and conversation. For Dadson, those conversations led to his hockey group — the Thursday night “Write Offs” — starting a tradition of giving to the Proudfoot Corner of the Toronto Star’s Santa Claus Fund.
Now in its113th year, the Santa Claus Fund has seen a couple of renditions of the Proudfoot Corner — it began life as the Sportsman’s Corner back in the 1940s, when Milt Dunnell began his tenure as the Star’s sports editor.
The tradition was then passed down to Jim Proudfoot and, when he died in 2001, Dave Perkins took over the tradition and renamed it the Proudfoot Corner.
“I go way back to Milt Dunnell,” Dadson said. “When Jim (Proudfoot) passed away, we felt it was a good time and a good place to start making donations. We all remember Jim’s work, and then Dave Perkins, when he took over from Jim.”
Dadson echoes the sentiment behind the Proudfoot Corner and the Fund when he says his hockey group’s reason for carrying on their donations for 18 years is the fact they are “all blessed at Christmas.” The Fund and the Corner reach out to readers every year at this time, with the aim of raising $1.7 million so 45,000 gift boxes can be delivered around Toronto to families facing tough times at Christmas.
Dadson feels it’s important for he and his fellow Write Offs to give back to the community.
And sport, hockey in particular, has helped inspire their generosity, and not only because a conversation led to a mention of the Proudfoot Corner and the fact Dadson was a longtime reader.
The Write Offs, who now play Thursday nights out of Thornhill Community Centre, originally got together because of the simple allure of sport and making new friends. They never knew where it was going to lead or how long it was going to last. Their friendships grew and they embraced the notion of “giving back.” “I remember the Toronto Scottish Rugby Club, I knew one of their players and he knew that I played hockey,” Dadson said, recalling the early days of his hockey group.
“Some of the rugby players wanted something to do in the winter so they came out and played. They weren’t experienced on skates, but they liked to tackle each other. So we got a whistle, and for two minutes, we’d let the rugby guys tackle each other on the ice, then we’d blow the whistle, and us regular guys would get our two minutes.”
Over the years, dozens of Write Offs alumni stuck to it, coming out Thursday nights, winter and summer. Famed columnist and author Roy MacGregor was one of them, but the name of the game was having fun.
“We went on a trip to Finland in 1991 and Bernie Dunn, one of our players, worked for Key to Toronto magazine, which you could see back then in all the hotel rooms in Toronto,” Dadson said.
“Bernie sponsored us, we had Leaf uniforms with the big maple leaf, and the words Key to Toronto there, too. When we got over to Finland, they saw the maple leaf logo, not the (sponsor name). The next thing we knew, there were referees on the ice for our game, they played the national anthems, and they had three or four guys who used to play for the Finnish national team.
“Once the game got going, they realized who we were, but we all had a lot of fun there.”
The group went on to play in St. Petersburg, Russia, and also took part in the Snoopy Tournament, a tourney put on by famed Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz.
Dadson is the only one still playing hockey from the original group that began in the ’60s. Dunn, a Second World War veteran, passed away recently but “played past his 80th birthday” Dadson recalls.
“He got a goal in his final game, and he passed away at 84,” Dadson said.
The Write Offs sent a note, along with their Proudfoot Corner donation this year, mentioning Dunn as a former member of the Thursday night hockey group. Theirs is an enduring spirit often found when donations come into the Fund.
Around the corner: Here we have John and Lind Weird of Stouffville with $100 in memory of Bud Murchie … Barbara and Duncan Towe from Markham send $250 with this note: “Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all our friends and family in lieu of cards. The interest in the Star had me working there when I finished school. Loved every minute and worked on the same floor as Santa’s helpers in those days.
Red Burnett lived over our back fence and took me to a hockey game on my birthdays, Milt was fun and got me giving to the Santa Corner. Jim Proudfoot had the same caregiver as my Mom so the Star Fund still means a lot. Thanks for keeping it going.” … Elisabeth Stewart of Toronto has $50, in memory of Sally Dalrymple… Ajax resident Giovanni Niro has $250 in memory of Mr. B. Niro and Mr. G. Palladino … Carol Mur
den of East York sends $25 in memory of Joan May and
John Murden Sr. … Here’s $500 from “anonymous,” in memory of Joe Feinstein, who kept the Corner’s Bangkok office open for a decade, and our treasured Mort Greenberg “who knew a great cause when he saw one.” … Here’s $100 from Tillsonburg’s Brian and Sallie
O’Rourke, with this note: “In honour of Bill Macovik, a champion girls’ basketball coach and an outstanding science teacher of Glendale High School, Tillsonburg. Sadly, Bill passed away in August 2018 after suffering from an automobile accident16 years ago. While he was unable to teach after his accident, he continued to coach basketball in Tillsonburg and Simcoe until the month he died.” … Randy Goldman of Toronto with $200 in memory of Sofia and Eli’s dear friend Willy … Edna and Jim Fitz
gerald of Scarborough send $275, “on behalf of our adult grandchildren in the Fitzgerald and Goodlad families, we’d like to help the Proudfoot Corner in a worthy cause.” … Toronto’s
Nora Schraivogel sends $1,000, with this note: “This will be the last hurrah from my teacher friends and myself. I had another Christmas get-together yesterday and am happy to report that $1,000 was raised which pierced last year’s record amount. We’re all getting on in age and can’t quite behave as we used to. It’s been a pleasure to brighten children’s Christmas mornings with our contributions to your Christmas boxes.” … Christine and Ed Dickson of Ajax have $100 “on behalf of our youngest grandchild and newest Red Wing fan Liam Ethan Charles Dickson.” … Derek and Helen Mackesy of Orillia have $100 “in memory of RCAF Flight Sgt. Jack Hutchison from Virgil who made the ultimate sacrifice in WWII. We must never forget.” … Richard Haliechuk of Palgrave sends $150 with this note: “I’d like to make this donation in memory of Gerry Hall, a great and fine man.” … Here’s North York’s John and Barbara Anderson with $100 … Haliburton’s Wayne and Heather McMullen send $100 “in memory of Uncle Alfred, who would take me to the Gardens for the Sunday doubleheaders.” … Micheline and John Sands send $200 from Mississauga, “in the name of their four granddaughters. John was on the Canadian Olympic Speed Skating teams in 1956 and 1960. As well, they created performance-based trophies for speed skating in Saskatoon, Ottawa, and Iqaluit. Their granddaughters are Paisley and Zoe Magill, aged 14 and 12, and Sierra and Janine Woodley, aged13 and11. All are giving part of their allowances to their favourite charities, including Terry Fox, Heart and Stroke, Lion’s Club local winter fair, and to one of their school friends suffering from cancer. The Woodley girls also volunteer to coach figure skating to younger children.” … Now we have William Duff of Milton with $250, Susan Sheehand of Etibocoke with $200 and Toronto’s William Ranking sends $100 … Seems we misspelled some names last week and, with apologies, we’d like to make up for it here: Toronto’s Eleanore A. Wynn sends $40 “in memory of Dr. Tom Pashby, Liz Pashby, Pat Lute and Wayne Allison.”