The Legends game isn’t about who wins or loses, although based on the roar of the crowd when JS Giguere made a final save to preserve Team Canada’s 10-9 victory, you wouldn’t know it. The game is about players having fun, entertaining the crowd, and capturing just a few moments of their former glory along the way.
On Sunday, 31 former players got together at the Air Canada Centre to play a game that bore a closer resemblance to a Wednesday night beer league game than the NHL and Olympic games that made them famous. Divided into two squads, Team Kurri, representing the world, and Team Messier, representing Canada, the 29 men and 2 women entertained an enthusiastic crowd in Toronto for the Haggar Hall of Fame Legends Game.
The game was divided into two 20-minute periods followed by a 6-round shootout. Team Canada, which featured former Lightning players Marty St. Louis, Brad Richards, Dino Ciccarelli, Wendel Clark and Dave Andreychuk, stormed back from a 5-1 first period deficit to win 10-9. Sparking the comeback was Richards, who scored three times in the second period to help tie the game in regulation.
His first goal would spark a memory in many a Lightning fan’s memory. The two Stanley Cup winners streaked….well skated at a moderate speed...into the offensive zone on a two-on-one. St. Louis fed the puck to Richards in the slot, and he ripped home a one-timer past Team Kurri goaltender Martin Biron.
For St. Louis, he was just excited to be on the ice with so many legendary players and shaking the hands of all of the inductees. “It’s my first one,” St. Louis said, “It’s exciting to be surrounded by legends and be part of it...It’s one of those experiences where you take it all in. I’m sure there will be a lots of laughs and we’ll have a good time.”
St. Louis had hoped that he would have a few moments together on the ice with Andreychuk and they did briefly at the end of the first period. Andreychuk didn’t score, and was denied in the shootout, but he looked right at home in front of the net.
Prior to the start of the game, the 2017 inductees received their Hall of Fame Jackets at the center of the ice. Due to the ceremonies, Andreychuk, Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi, and Danielle Goyette joined their respective teams with about 6 minutes left in the first period.
Richards and St. Louis weren’t the only famous duo playing in the game. Following the first period a trade was announced. Paul Kariya was traded to Team Kurri for “a player to be named later” so that he could skate with Selanne. And the move paid off as the pair connected for a goal.
More than the goals, it’s the moments that the players seem to enjoy the most. After all, there is no hitting, no slapshots (although Richards cranked up a shot for one of his goals), no offsides and no penalties. Referee Kerry Fraser spent more time talking on the microphone than he did blowing his whistle.
Fraser was met with a scattering of boos from the Toronto crowd when he was introduced, as the fans haven’t fully forgiven him for not calling a high stick on Wayne Gretzky in Game 6 of the 1993 Western Conference Finals. Neither had Andreychuk. When asked about it during a break in the game on Sunday he said, “it sucked.” And he may have only been half joking in his response.
Late in the game Kariya playfully wrapping Giguere in a headlock after his former teammate robbed him with a glove save.
“He had a smile the whole time,” Giguere said of Kariya in regards to the game. For the former University of Maine star it was his first time playing hockey since he retired and it showed in his equipment. “It’s just the equipment I had,” he said sheepishly when reporters pointed out that he was wearing mix-matched gloves and his skates were missing a couple of rivets.
That’s the real treat of a game like this. It isn’t the competition, but the fun. It’s Wendal Clark playing defense and blaming his defensive partner Ray Bourque for a Nik Antropov breakaway. It’s Lanny McDonald claiming he read Team Canada the riot act during the intermission. It’s a chance for the players to remember who they were. Giguere summed up the game perfectly: “It’s always so much fun. You’re back like in your youth. You’re back playing the game for the love of the game”