RICHLAND — Hockey and golf. For Drew Owsley, it couldn't be a more perfect weekend.
The Tri-City Americans starting goaltender will be teeing off this morning with his Dade Moeller and Associates team at Olie and Stu's Desert Bash at Meadow Springs Country Club. A couple of rounds of golf is a bonus, but when the field contains nearly a half-dozen former and current NHL and Olympic goalies, the experience is well worth the trip.
"I'm really looking forward to it. It's an honor and it's for a good cause," said Owsley, the Western Hockey League's Western Conference playoff MVP. "I think it will be fun to talk to a few of those guys. Any tips I can get, I'll take."
The Desert Bash is in its ninth year and has raised more than $900,000 over the first eight years of the event to fight autism and other neurological disorders, including $200,000 last year.
"The community has supported me and Stu (Barnes) since 1988 when the Americans first came to town," said Olie Kolzig, whose 9-year-old son Carson is autistic. "Even in the down times. I'm always optimistic, but we might see a difference (in the amount raised) this year. This community isn't immune to the economy, but it hasn't been affected as much as other parts of the country."
The money raised over the years has gone in part to opening the Responding to Autism Center in Kennewick, and helping families attend an annual autism conference in the Tri-Cities. That will continue.
"What's great is people can see where the money is going to," Kolzig said. "Before, we gave scholarships and grants, but when you have the actual building, it gives people more of an incentive to support us. It's a little smaller than we thought it would be, but it's the right size to start."
Today's round begins at 8 a.m., followed by dinner and the auction. Monday's round starts at noon, followed by the awards ceremony.
Owsley will be joined on the course by Americans teammate Jordan Messier. The two flew in together Saturday.
Messier, who played a couple of rounds of golf this past week in Michigan (even one in the pouring rain), is looking forward to his first Bash.
"I'm honored that I got an invite," said Messier, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound winger. "Why wouldn't I want to come and play with the alumni? I'm quite excited."
The debate has surfaced as to who is better -- Owsley or Messier. Messier was quick to answer.
"I'm OK, but Drew is better than me by a long ways," Messier said. "He's whupped me pretty good."
Kolzig also is taking Owsley's side -- and it's not just a goalie thing.
"Drew is a bit of a player," said Kolzig, who tended goal in the NHL for Washington and Tampa Bay. "During training camp, we had a day out here and he played well. It's good you can have not only good kids, but ones who will give their groups a competitive edge."
Owsley's group includes Craig Anderson, Bill Kennedy, Joel Arana and Tracy Ikenberry.
"I've been playing a little on the weekend with my dad and brother," Owsley said. "I shoot in the mid-70s -- I don't know if I'm that good."
Kolzig and Owsley will be joined by fellow goalies Carey Price (Montreal), Byron Dafoe (retired NHL), Tyler Weiman (Vancouver) and Dusty Imoo (former American and 1998 Olympian for Japan).
Messier's group includes Tex Rutter, who comes out to play every year, Chris Waltze, Jeremy Appleby and Lori Gunderson.
The event trimmed its field from 34 to 30 teams this year to speed play along under the hot Mid-Columbia skies.
Among the celebrities coming out to play are former Portland Trailblazers Bob Gross and Darrall Imhoff; former Seattle Seahawks Michael Jackson, Charles McShane and Alonzo Mitz; and current and former Tri-City players and coaches Stu Barnes, Jim Hiller, Terry Virtue, Adam Hughesman, Rob Krauss, Johnny Lazo, Bob Loucks, Taylor Procyshen, Tyler Schmidt and Dylan Stanley.
On hand to keep the peace will be NCAA basketball referee Dick Cartmell and NHL referee Dan O'Rourke.
On the auction block will be an autographed Bill Russell photo; a stick and jersey courtesy of Price; a trip to a Dallas Stars game thanks to Barnes, an assistant coach with the Stars; and a trip to Phoenix with Don and Lori Watts, which includes airfare, accommodations, a round of golf at an exclusive course and a trip to the Ping factory to get fitted for a set of clubs (courtesy of Golf Universe).