PETAWAWA – NHL alumni and local law enforcement once again took to the ice for the annual NHL Alumni Benefit Tour to usher in this weekend’s Hometown Hockey Tour.
The NHL legends and Pembroke Law Enforcement All-Stars have been squaring off for the game every year to raise funds for the local Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
“I’m looking forward to just the community being able to watch the NHL alumni play while supporting a great cause,” said Inspector Mark Wolfe, Upper Ottawa Valley OPP detachment commander. “I grew up watching a lot of those NHL guys play so it’s neat to see them here, watch them play and interact with them. Community is important to them and the needs of the community are important to them, so there are a lot of similarities between the police and the NHL alumni.”
This year’s charity hockey game took place at the Petawawa Civic Centre on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.
Hundreds of hockey fans of all ages filed into the arena to enjoy an evening of Canada’s beloved sport – with parents and grandparents reliving their NHL memories while young children watched the legends for the first time.
Die-hard hockey fans who purchased VIP tickets also had the chance to shake hands with the NHL legends during an exclusive locker-room meet-and-greet.
The lineup for the NHL Alumni team included players from Stanley Cup winning teams and a slew of former Ottawa Senators.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Pelyk was this year’s coach for the alumni team.
Pelyk, who now sits in the role of NHL Alumni Association chairman, said that the charitable game was only made possible through the support of the volunteers, police officers and community members.
“What I most look forward to is seeing all of the satisfaction from all of the volunteers who contributed an inordinate amount of time to make it happen because we cant make it happen without help and you need volunteers to do it,” said Pelyk. “As well, the support from the police association who do an amazing job of selling tickets and making sure people show up. And tonight is all about hockey and community. There is only thing that really brings all Canadians together and that is hockey.”
Leading the NHL line-up was Laurie Boschman, the first captain of the modern-day Ottawa Senators, who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and the New Jersey Devils during a 14-season career.
Montreal Canadiens fans were graced by speedy forward Mark Napier, now NHL Alumni Association president, whose best seasons were playing in Montreal where he had two 40-goal seasons.
Joining them was NHL all-star and three-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Krushelnyski who played 900 games over the course of 15 years with the NHL.
Top defenceman Bryan Muir, who won the 2001 Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche alongside legend Ray Bourque, stepped back into defence for the alumni team.
Minding the net was the always entertaining Mark “Trees” Laforest – a top goaltender who had a lengthy NHL career during which he played for Detroit, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Toronto.
Other NHL legends to join them on ice included former Wahsington Capitals forward Chris Valentine, former New Jersey Dwevils defenceman Corey Foster along with Ottawa Senators alumni Brad Smyth, Shaun Van Allen and Brendan Bell.
Tough-guy Dave Hutchinson served as the game’s official. The former defenceman was well-known for getting his hands dirty on the ice as he racked up over 1700 penalty minutes during his 11-season NHL career.
The two-period game was kicked off with puck-drop that bestowed the opportunity upon three local Special Olympics athletes. Golfer Brian Dinwoodie and track-and-field athletes Jeff Shand and Rachael Ballfour, who will also be attending the 2017 Ontario Provincial Special Olympics Summer Games, were pleased to share the honour alongside Scotiabank manager Ryan Morris and Inspector Mark Wolfe.
The action quickly began as the rivals pounced on the puck and battled one another for the upper-hand.
Despite the solid alumni line-up, the O.P.P. team gave the former NHL greats a run for their money.
“The NHL alumni usually wins but I’m crossing my fingers for our team this year,” said Inspector Mark Wolfe. “We’re going to try and tire them out because we have a lot more skaters than they do.”
The close back-and-forth game could have gone either way as both teams remained tied at 16-16 until the NHL alumni sunk in the final goal to solidify their 17-16 win.