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Thursday, February 11, 2010
Hawks show their poker faces in charity tournament

By JESSE ROGERS



Most thought Hawks' goaltender Antti Niemi would get knocked out first. After all, he doesn’t know how to play the game, which spurred Patrick Sharp to say of his teammate, “He probably thinks he’s at a ‘Go Fish’ tournament or something.”

But it was Andrew Ladd who went “all in” and then “all out” --before any other Hawk--in Brian Campbell’s celebrity Texas Hold ’Em tournament Wednesday night at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind.

The event benefited Chicagoland’s chapter of Autism Speaks, as well as Chicago’s Beard School. It was a sold-out night, with more than 300 fans playing alongside Hawk players, coaches and other Chicago celebrities. If a fan knocked out a Hawks player, they got the jersey off their back, but the true competition, sort of, was between teammates.

Troy Brouwer was the last man standing, among Hawk players, and reveled in the attention. Kris Versteeg didn’t understand it.

“What did he win?” Versteeg joked. “He didn’t win the tournament. He beat all of us but it’s only because he cares more than we do. We just went in there to have fun while he had the poker face on. It was funny to [watch] him as he was playing. I think his wife actually beat him so she’s the one that really won out of everybody.”

Nonetheless, Brouwer was pretty proud of his accomplishment and, according to him, he has a good track record in off-ice competition.

“I won the bowling and last year I won the curling and now the poker,” Brouwer said. “I think ping pong is next. I got a lot of skills in my bag that I can pull out at anytime.”

The main winner of the evening, of course, was the cause for autism. It’s something Campbell got involved with during his days in Buffalo and felt the urge to do the same when he came to Chicago. His teammates lent a hand as did his coach, Joel Quenneville.

“There are a lot of people I’ve known and been around associated with it [autism],” Quenneville said. “It’s a special cause.”

If Wednesday night’s outcome has anything to do with it, expect more from Campbell on this cause. The night was a success by all measures including the Hawks that were there.

“We had a lot of fun,” Brouwer said. “I can’t wait for the next one.”