MEMORIAL CUP MAGIC RELIVED AT ALUMNI GAME
Rob Benneian, St Clair College Converged Citizen Managing Editor
There was a once-in-a-lifetime feel to the Windsor Spitfires alumni game at Tecumseh Arena on Saturday night.
And I was lucky enough to have a backstage pass.
A group of die-hard fans were already in line for tickets once morning broke. And who could blame them? Their $5 entry granted them access to a game with some serious star power.
Former Spitfires, Memorial Cup Champions and budding NHL stars including Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Cam Fowler and Zack Kassian took the ice alongside their former bench boss Bob Boughner, team general manager Warren Rychel and some fan favourites from days gone by in Kyle Wellwood, Steve Ott and Bill Bowler.
The mood was light pre-game, as the players took the time to sign hundreds of autographs. In the locker room, the guys picked up where they had left off, and no one was spared from the teasing.
Rychel was asked by Andrew Engelage if his son Maddux was going to help him tie his skates. Boughner razzed Hall that the back-to-back Memorial Cup teams could beat his current Edmonton Oilers squad. And there was the ever-popular “who would win in a fight between” debates.
Just your typical junior hockey locker room, three years removed.
Mike Weber, ever the stay-at-home defenseman, told me he hoped to pad his shot-blocking stats, while Hall said he hoped to do something to get the fans excited every time he had the puck on his stick.
Steve Ott said he remembered being cut from the Tecumseh Bulldogs; an event that proved key in propelling him to what continues to be a successful NHL career, built on hard work and perseverance.
Everyone enjoyed a good laugh early in the game when Ben Shutron, playing defense for Team Red, tried to go coast-to-coast and was stripped in the neutral zone by none other than 45-year-old Warren Rychel. The Spits GM quickly head-manned the turnover to Kyle Wellwood, who notched his first of four goals on the day.
The game looked like a runaway for White, which took a 5-1 lead into the break. But a nine-goal outburst allowed Red to storm back and win 10-7. The goals came rapid-fire in the second period, leaving game clock operator struggling to keep up.
When Red tied and quickly grabbed their first lead of the night, there was a huge celebration on their bench.
It may have been just a fun game to raise money for local minor sports; but you can’t turn off the competitiveness these guys are born with.
Neither team wanted to give an inch. And it made for a great evening of hockey for the hundreds who turned out to relive a glorious time in Spitfires lore.
After all, when you team up star hockey players that brought our city two Memorial Cup titles and a place in history with a great charitable cause, there are no losers.