Eugene Melnyk's been a part of many Hockey Nights in Canada.
Now he's done Hockey Night in Kandahar.
Yesterday, the Ottawa Senators owner touched down at the Canadian soldiers' base with a giant care package of Canadiana: $50,000 worth of hockey gear and 2,500 Tim Hortons gift certificates.
....No word on whether the Leafs owners are doing anything similiar.
In the area after a business trip to Dubai, Melnyk toured the base and visited an open-air "rink" built by Canadian soldiers in the sand.
LOVE THEIR GAME
"It's absolutely phenomenal," Melnyk said in a conference call with reporters. "The soldiers here are very avid hockey fans. They get up at 4 in the morning to watch the games and they have a very well-organized house league."
Three nights a week, 300 players in 15 teams take turns facing off on the base. There were at least six games yesterday.
"The games are 25 minutes long because of the heat," said league president Maj. Mike Hendrigan.
They're playing for the Kandahar Cup, a pint-sized version of Lord Stanley's mug. Playoffs are set for May.
Games were called off last Friday because a rocket zipped over the camp.
The soldiers, with their ratty gear, were like kids on Christmas morning when Melnyk starting hauling hockey sticks, pads and Senator jerseys out of an armoured vehicle, his makeshift sleigh.
Before speaking with reporters back home, Melnyk watched a game between Canada and the U.S. The Canadians wore Sens jerseys while the Americans received Washington Capitals and New York Rangers gear. Canada won the game 9-0. Melnyk didn't lace up.
Even in Afghanistan, it seems Melnyk couldn't escape some ribbing from troops who prefer to wear the despised blue and white, but he did get Leafs fans to wear Sens jerseys during the game.