SUN Hockey Pool

Clothes fly for autographs

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

KANDAHAR -- Ex-Leaf Mike Gartner was a lucky charm for at least one Canadian soldier, whom he bought a coffee for at the Tim Hortons trailer on the dusty Kandahar Airfield boardwalk.

The trooper found he'd won a local roll-up-the-rim contest, a special camouflage baseball cap, which is said to have shot up in value to as much as $800 on eBay since the NHLers here started signing them. Gartner's new buddy was happy just to keep the hat.

After Team Canada's collection of NHL alumni and musicians beat a towering U.S. Army team 8-2 in ball hockey last night, Gartner received another treat.

An American soldier asked for his Canadian-themed Support Our Troops baseball hat and when Gartner teased the soldier about what he'd give in return, was shocked when the guy said, "My uniform."

Sure enough, he stripped and gave Gartner his army jacket and cap.

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Blue Rodeo, Montreal rockers Jonas and Toronto-based folk singers Lori Anna Reid and Gregg Lawless were supposed to give just a couple of concerts here, but have been playing up to twice a day to accommodate Canadians serving in remote forward operations bases whose deployment was either too late or too soon for the visit.

Soldiers of all nationalities drop in regularly, as do Canadian troops who've come right from the field only moments before, toting rifles yet still taking up Blue Rodeo's offer to jam with them on stage.

Those who missed Team Canada entirely had signed T-shirts, CDs and sticks sent ahead to FOBs while Brad Dalgarno teamed with Microsoft Canada to bring 12 X-Box 360 consoles to the FOBs.

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Former NHL goaltender Ed Staniowski is based here, a lieutenant-colonel in regional command and likely the highest ranking former player in our army at present.

"I'd wanted to join the army, right out of junior, but we had a great Regina Pats team in 1975-76," Staniowski explained last night at a Team Canada barbecue honouring 200 select troops. "So I was drafted by the Blues and spent 10 great years in the game.

"I look for the same qualities in people here as I did in hockey: Dedication, focus and doing your job while watching the back of the person on your right and left."


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