In its debut, the Montreal Media Hockey Marathon mustered up eight teams to raise funds for the Otis Grant and Friends Foundation, but, 16 years later, the tournament has blossomed into a 78-team behemoth.

A brainchild of 94.7 hits FM radio host Marty Lamarre, the marathon, which ran all day April 13, features dozens of sponsors, former NHL players, current and former women national team members, the Concordia Stingers women’s team and the McGill Martlets.

“I’m proud of the whole thing but I couldn’t do this by myself,” said Lamarre. “You should see the amount of people working behind the scenes that get very little recognition – hats off to them.”

There are over 600 players involved in the marathon, said Lamarre, not to mention the 30 volunteer organizers and 51 volunteer referees. All of them come out to support the foundation and help raise money for West Island’s less fortunate.

Whether people are participating or lending a helping hand, everyone that shows up to the marathon is giving all of their time and energy, he explained. And that’s what makes the event special.

The last two years have been particularly fruitful for Lamarre and Otis Grant, founder of the Otis Grant and Friends Foundation. For the first time in the marathon’s history, they were able to sell out in back-to-back years.

“That shows us that the people that are involved look forward to it,” said Grant. “As long as we keep getting interest from local teams and community we’ll continue to do it.”

Grant, a former world champion boxer, started the foundation in 1999 after suffering a near-fatal car accident. He says he could have never imagined the rapid growth of his foundation.

A friend of Lamarre’s, Grant got involved with the hockey marathon at the ground level. And he credits a lot of his foundations success, and the event, to Lamarre. Without him, Grant says they wouldn’t be where they are today.

“I tip my hat off to Marty Lamarre and the 94.7 hits squad, without him this tournament doesn’t happen,” Grant said. “For that, I’ll always be indebted to him and be there for him whenever he needs my presence.”

Former Montreal Canadiens player Sébastien Bordeleau echoed Grants sentiments. He has been participating in the tournament for over five years. And every year he enjoys the opportunity to give back to the community. Playing with or against ex-teammates and former foes is just the cherry on top, he says.

“It’s good because you know when life is good for you, you’ve got to give back and Marty does a great job at organizing this for people to have a chance to give back and raise money,” said Bordeleau.

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