Former NHLers put on impressive display of skill, puck movement and skating last Friday
By Pat Payton
These former NHLers have all gotten a little older, but they still know how to play the game of hockey!
In front of an estimated 750 spectators, the Montreal Canadiens’ Alumni team put on an exceptional display of skill, puck movement, puck possession, skating and shooting last Friday night at the PRC–schooling a squad of former St. Marys Lincolns to the tune of 11-3.
The ex-Habs probably gave local fans an idea how good you have to be to play at the game’s highest level. Six of the Montreal players and coach Yvon Lambert (four consecutive years) played on Stanley Cup champion teams.
“The Canadiens are all (former) NHL hockey players and you don’t forget how to play the game; it’s just instinct and experience,” Lincolns’ centre Merlin Malinowski told the Independent. “They pass the puck so hard and so precise. And they don’t turn the puck over. You have to go and try and take it away from them, and that’s difficult at our age,” he said with a laugh.
“They’ve maybe slowed down a little, but they can still skate and shoot and pass the puck. And they have that awareness where people are on the ice. Some of the guys out there won Stanley Cups, so you don’t forget how to play,” Malinowski added.
Puck on a string
The most talented player on the ice was Canadiens’ speedster OIeg Petrov, who seemed to have the puck on a string all night and impressed many local fans with his performance. Petrov scored one of the Montreal goals, and earned several assists, but the slick Russian had a strong supporting cast. Big Pierre Dagenais fired a hat trick and Guillaume Latendresse added a pair for the Canadiens, who built period leads of 3-0 and 8-0.
Former Lincolns’ Scott Graham and Mark O’Keefe filled the two import spots on the Montreal roster and both scored goals. O’Keefe’s tally came on a second-period penalty shot.
Canadiens’ goalie Richard Sevigny, 61, also made the big saves when called upon, nullifying a good half-dozen Lincolns’ chances around his net with sliding stick-checks.
Malinowski got a big roar from the crowd when he broke Sevigny’s shutout bid early in the third, and Duane Harmer and Jared Frayne later scored penalty-shot goals for the Lincolns. Kevin McDougall and Grant Cousineau played net for the former Lincs, and they were busy all night as Montreal held a 34-26 edge in shots.
“Moving the puck and puck possession are huge for these guys,” Scott Graham said in the Montreal dressing room after the game. “These guys are just so talented, too; they take it to another level out there. Some of these guys are in their 40s, and they’re still in great shape and can obviously still play. That Petrov . . . he just flies out there.
“It was a thrill to play with these guys; they’re a great bunch of guys. It was a real fun night and a great memory for me,” Graham added.
One of the game’s funniest moments came late in the final period. While a teammate faked an injury near the St. Marys bench, Dagenais snuck up and splashed the Lincolns’ players with a pail of water.
Alumni game notebook:
–The touring Canadiens Alumni squad plays between 40 and 50 games a season, and raises close to $1 million annually for charities. Members of the team signed autographs for the fans in the PRC’s End Zone room prior to Friday’s game.
The Canadiens team stayed the night at Stone Willow Inn, and then played in Belle River on Saturday evening.
–The on-ice officials for Friday’s game were former Lincoln Drew Williams, Chad Petrie and Owen Penney. Williams was an OHA referee for about 10 seasons, and was also an OHL official for one year.
–Rev. Dr. Pirie Mitchell did double duty Friday night. He sang the national anthem prior to the game and later served as auctioneer for the live auction in the community centre. Norm Penney was master of ceremonies for the auction, promoting each item up for grabs, and Lincs’ PA announcer Jamie Hahn helped display the items.
The auction raised over $5,300, with the Carey Price autographed jersey going for $670. Other auction items were beautiful canoe paddles, donated by former Lincoln Spencer Meany. More items were Maple Leafs, Red Wings and Blue Jays tickets, several NHL autographed jerseys, and a package from St. Marys Golf and Country Club.
–Fran Glover, of St. Marys, won Friday’s 50-50 draw, worth a cool $1,157.50.
–It was quite a night for the Graham family, with Scott playing against his eldest son Brett. Following the game in the community centre, musicians Sean and Kevin Graham provided good entertainment. The twins are the sons of Scott and Laurie Graham, and they call themselves ‘Devito and Schwartz.’