About Us - Sunnybrook Foundation

Whistler’s open: Hockey refs golf and donate to critical care

Mar 11, 2014

Rob Brown, Del Cordeiro, Steven Picco, Steve DunlopStephen Gerry, Mike Brown, David Sega, Norm Belyea

When they're not blowing the whistle for a high-sticking or cross-checking penalty, the GTA's hockey referees might be found playing golf and raising funds to support Sunnybrook's Trauma, Emergency & Critical Care (TECC) program.

Since the late 1990s, the Whistler's Open golf tournament (named after the referee's whistle) has been supporting Sunnybrook. The hockey officials have raised more than $259,000 for Sunnybrook's TECC program.

 "The day is filled with as many laughs as possible; it is enjoyable and affordable, and we raise as much money as we can for an important cause," says Steven Picco, a hockey ref and head of the organizing committee. "It always seems like Sunnybrook is at the forefront of critical care in Ontario."

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the tournament. The first 25 years were organized by a volunteer committee led by self-proclaimed "grand poobah" Norm Belyea, an IT specialist and former North York Hockey League referee.

Sunnybrook became the focus of fundraising after a great friend and fellow ref, Kevin Hill, died from complications of Hodgkin's disease in 1996. Hill had been a patient at Sunnybrook. "We were very impressed with the care Kevin received at Sunnybrook," says Belyea. "We've been raising funds towards critical care at Sunnybrook ever since."

In 2010, Belyea stepped aside and Picco, who was only one year old when the golf tournament began, stepped in to lead a new organizing committee. The same themes - camaraderie and raising money for a great cause - endure. "Refs get yelled at a lot," laughs Picco, "so we have to stick together." As the 2009 invitation says, "the main goal of the extravaganza is to get together for a day of fun and relaxation, where our main concern is ducking golf balls, rather than ducking pucks, sticks and other projectiles."

Whistlers Open committee