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Chicago Hockey Charity Classic focuses on inclusiveness, with Kendall Coyne Schofield, Josh Pauls as headliners

The event, held at the Blackhawks’ Fifth Third Arena, raised about $40,000 for Special Olympics Chicago.

From left to right, Team USA Women’s Hockey star Kendall Coyne Schofield, NHL agent Kevin Magnuson and Avalanche forward J.T. Compher pose after playing in the third annual Chicago Hockey Charity Classic.
Ben Pope

Several NHL players participated Sunday in the third annual Chicago Hockey Charity Classic: J.T. Compher, Ryan Hartman, Brandon Pirri, Garret Sparks.

It took a close examination of the rosters to notice that, however.

After two years of Patrick Kane and Vinnie Hinostroza headlining the event, Special Olympics Chicago specifically chose two less conventional players to star in 2019: Team USA women’s hockey star Kendall Coyne Schofield and Team USA sled-hockey captain Josh Pauls.

‘‘Special Olympics is all about inclusion and allowing everyone an opportunity to participate in sport, no matter what the game is,’’ Coyne Schofield said. ‘‘Today’s game embodied that, whether it was women’s players, sled players [or] NHL players.’’

Coyne Schofield’s team, which also featured Hartman, Sparks and 1970s and ’80s Blackhawks mainstay Grant Mulvey, battled Pauls’ team, which also featured Compher, Pirri, former Hawks defenseman Adam Clendening and NHL agent/Special Olympics chairman Kevin Magnuson as players and Panthers general manager Dale Tallon as coach, to a 6-6 tie over two periods.

Coyne Schofield’s team won the ensuing shootout 3-2.

Kendall Coyne Schofield, one of the headliners of the event Sunday, led Team USA Women’s Hockey to a gold medal in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Sun-Times file photo

The stands at Fifth Third Arena were mostly full, and the event raised about $40,000 for Special Olympics Chicago. On the ice, it was an equally friendly competition.

‘‘When you’re able to play hockey with some of the growing stars of the game, it’s always a great time,’’ Pauls said. ‘‘To have two team captains that aren’t your typical hockey players, it speaks volumes to not only what the Blackhawks are doing here, but also things the NHL is doing [nationwide]. It really shows that hockey is a game that anybody can play if you have a passion for it.’’

Coyne Schofield, a native of the southwest suburbs, was joined by Alyssa Gagliardi, another of the more notable players in the small but growing National Women’s Hockey League. Coyne Schofield plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps and Gagliardi for the Boston Pride.

Many of the other participants were brought in by Magnuson. Compher and Coyne Schofield are his clients, as is Coyotes minor-leaguer Robbie Russo, who also played.

Coyne Schofield and Prodigy Hockey founder and skills coach Brian Keane were among the leaders of a clinic held earlier in the day for kids in Special Olympics. Keane then put on a show in the game, scoring two beautiful goals, while the kids watched from reserved seats at center ice.

While passing the puck with eager kids in the clinic, Coyne Schofield said she had a revelation. She said she reflected on her memories from the gold-medal-winning game of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

‘‘Their excitement for the game is the same excitement that I have for the game,’’ she said. ‘‘Whether I’m playing in the Olympics or I’m on the ice with them today, it’s the same love for the game.

‘‘To share that love is so important, to show that we’re all athletes.’’