This year, Sonnet sponsored
Tell us about why some of the best hockey players in the world are competing in table tennis?
Smashfest® is a charity ping-pong challenge supporting concussion and rare cancer research. It features over 20 professional hockey players, along with celebrities and guests that play ping-pong at Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto, every year to raise money and awareness for the causes.
Smashfest® is a charity ping pong challenge supporting concussion and rare cancer research.
So, why concussion and rare cancer research?
Both of these causes are under-represented. We like to think of ourselves as being in the corner of the causes that don’t otherwise have much support.
Rare cancers make up a significant portion of cancer cases, but they’re not small. They’re affecting a lot of people. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get the funding, research and data together to make progress on these smaller cancers. We focus on promoting collaborative initiatives that bring different entities together to share knowledge and data.
When it comes to concussions – obviously they are a hockey-related injury. But, so many adults and children are affected outside of the sport. And, it’s not just concussions that our research is supporting. There are applications to this kind of brain science that can help with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Awareness has grown for both of these causes and continues to do so. I’d like to think Smashfest® has been a small part of that.
Did you know? According to Smashfest®:
1 in 4 of all cancer diagnoses are classified as rare.
Annually 10 million children and adults experience traumatic brain injury or concussion.
What sparked the idea for Smashfest®?
"It started with a small idea to do something different to raise awareness for these causes. I had a particular affinity for ping-pong – every locker room in the league has a table and I’d play before and after every practice with teammates. I always thought it would make a great charity event – it’s social and everyone can play regardless of skill. Finally, I decided to approach the NHLPA about supporting it and they were on board from the start."
It started with a small idea to do something different to raise awareness for these causes.
How has Smashfest® grown in the seven years since you started it in 2011?
"Smashfest® is in its seventh year and it’s flown by! We weren’t really sure how the quirky idea of ping-pong would be received – but everyone came away saying “Wow! What a great event!” and wanting to come back We’ve worked really hard each year with the help of the NHLPA and sponsors such as Sonnet to grow the event. Having strong supporters of the causes, fans of table tennis and the players have really helped increase the profile of the event year over year. Since 2011, we’ve raised around $865,000 for our causes – something that we’re really proud of."
How much money did Smashfest® raise this year?
"We raised over $200,000 this year. Last year we raised $165,000. But, it’s not just money. We’ve also had a huge impact in terms of reaching a lot of people with the message of the event. This awareness helps our causes tremendously and helps us continue to do what we do."
We raised over $200,000 this year.
Can you share a little about the impact this money has had so far?
"Our support is focused on two primary projects right now.
The first is a collaboration with the Broad Institute in Boston, which is committed to collaborative research on rare cancers (among other medical challenges). We’ve funded an initiative with them to collect tissue from rare cancel patients across North America and turn that into meaningful data. This data is then made accessible to anyone and can be used as a platform for further research.
Secondly, we announced this year, a project with Dr. Brown of the University of Western in Ontario. Dr. Brown is one of the foremost experts in the field of concussions and has a history of support from the NHLPA and other players like Eric Lindros. Our initiative looks at tau – an important brain protein. We believe learning more about tau is one of the keys to unlocking the root causes of traumatic brain injury."
Some intriguing work. A few fun questions now… What’s your fondest Smashfest® memory?
"Wow! There are a lot of good memories. I think one of the most special moments is walking into the main hall at Steam Whistle Brewery and seeing the transformation of the space. The first year, especially – but even every year after – it’s one part of the event that I really enjoy. We work long hours all year leading up to the event, and seeing it all come together is a really cool moment."
Who has been your favourite professional hockey player to have attended Smashfest®?
"Having my hero Doug Gilmour – a player that I looked up to growing up – attend the event this year has been my highlight. But there have been a lot of other great players that have attended over the years like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and of course recent fellow teammates, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Favourites aside, the support of having all these players come together is a huge part in making this event happen that we’re really grateful for."
From Phil Kessel to Taylor Hall – Smashfest® has hosted over 80 pro hockey players!
Which professional hockey player could have a career in ping-pong – besides yourself?
"I think that’s pretty obvious… four-time defending champion, Patrick Eaves. He takes it very seriously. He’s got a private coach and trains intensively to defend his title every year. I think if he wanted to, he could go pro in table tennis. Although, I have full respect for how good the pros are at this sport - they’re next level. But these players that take it seriously are no slouches…"
Sounds like a really cool event! So, what if people missed Smashfest® this year – how can they support your cause?
"I’d encourage everyone to visit our website
www.smashfest.ca.Not only can you watch videos from the event and related stories but we also give updates on the impact that we’ve had. We appreciate a follow on our social channels and helping us spread the word. Of course, there is always the option to donate on the website for those that are interested. Hopefully, we’ll see you at Smashfest® VIII!"
Show your support for concussion and rare cancer research. Visit