On Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens Alumni Association played the final game of their Southern Ontario tour at the Morgan Firestone Arena in Ancaster, Ontario, a suburb of Hamilton. It was a fundraiser hosted by the Ancaster Minor Hockey League, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
The opponents for the Canadiens were members of the Ancaster Avalanche alumni (dressed in full Colorado Avalanche kit) and also the Hamilton Argylls, the reserve unit of the late Corporal Nathan Cirillo who was killed at the War Memorial in Ottawa in 2014. This game being on Remembrance Day was an especially stark reminder of sacrifices made by members of our Armed Forces, while we hang out at an arena on Saturday afternoon to watch the past, present, and future play some hockey.
There was a moment of serenity and introspection when the bagpipes played. Then during the singing of O Canada, the in-house PA died, and the crowd jumped in to sing the anthem to a rousing completion, to the joy of the Canadiens players who gave the crowd stick taps for their effort.
The lineup for the Habs Alumni was an interesting cross section of several generations of Canadiens players.
- #3 Ric Nattress (1982-85)
- #12 Keith Acton (1979-84)
- #22 John Scott (2015-16)
- #27 Gilbert Delorme (1981-84)
- #29 John Chabot (1983-85)
- #30 Chris Nilan (1979-88, 1991-92)
- #33 Richard Sevigny (1979-84)
- #44 Stephane Richer (1984-91, 1996-98)
- #45 Jocelyn Lemieux (1988-90)
- #45 Arron Asham (1998-02)
- #47 Marc-Andre Bergeron (2009-10)
- #71 Patrice Brisebois (1990-04, 2007-09)
In a possible case of recency bias, John Scott was the star for the Canadiens Alumni team if you based it on the high-pitched screams of joy from all the kids in attendance, who cheered his every move. Scott was a controversial addition to the Alumni team given his history with the organization, but in an endless show of class since his trade to the Canadiens and the subsequent circus surrounding his All-Star Game appearance, Scott was very accommodating to all the kids, signing numerous autographs, taking the time needed to make sure that every kid got his moment with the behemoth forward.
Scott was the last one off the ice at every turn, and even stayed on for a while on the ice to take more pictures. He relished the opportunity to be a hero for these kids, continuing the storybook ending for the career pugilist.
My personal adoration was turned toward goaltender Richard Sévigny, who was the first goaltender I ever saw play live for the Canadiens back in the early 80s at the Montreal Forum. His old-school technique was certainly a throwback and a delight to watch. There were several instances of sprawling poke-checks and stacked-pad diving saves. It’s a style of goaltending that died when the butterfly came in, but in games like this one it was tremendous fun.
To call the style ineffective, one would have to ignore the remarkable final-minute save Sévigny managed to make against the Avalanche, who came determined to play their best against the Canadiens.
Richard Sévigny. Le premier gardien du Canadien que j'ai connu. Le l'ai vu jouer au Forum dans le temps. pic.twitter.com/pU1xInOz9s— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) November 11, 2017
Keith Acton and Stéphane Richer still displayed the talent that gave them long, productive careers in the NHL, combining with Patrice Brisebois on the Canadiens’ first goal of the game. Marc-Andre Bergeron displayed the kind of play we grew accustomed to from him: speed, a smooth skating stride, and poorly-timed giveaways. One glaring turnover led to a tying goal for the Argylls almost immediately after the Canadiens took the lead.
At one point Sévigny was also beaten by a slapshot from a traitorous Brisebois, who turned around and let one rip from the blueline past his unsuspecting goaltender. The two exchanged words and smiles after the event.
And that’s what this game was really about: having fun. It wasn’t quite a Harlem Globetrotters versus Washington Generals mismatch, but the Canadiens nonetheless enjoyed holding onto the puck and passing unnecessarily often to set up a play, to the delight of the fans.
At one point the referee called a penalty on Scott for holding, but the penalty was cancelled after Richer gave the referee a Gartorade shower. The referee was quick to realize that messing with the Habs alumni was probably not in his best interest. Scott and Richer slashed and grabbed at will afterwards, with the referee turning a blind eye to these infractions.
Watching these Alumni took me back to the late 80s when I remember seeing an Alumni game broadcast on TV, maybe in the early days of RDS, where Guy Lafleur received a two-minute penalty for missing a wide-open net, which he begrudgingly served in the penalty box. It was also the only time I ever saw Doug Harvey play with a Canadiens jersey on. That’s what these games bring with them.
For the kids it was all about the enjoyment of seeing the Canadiens, especially John Scott, up close, and for the seasoned fan it was about reminiscing about some of the players we used to follow growing up with this team.
All in all, a great time was had by young and old.
- 1-0 Acton (Richer, Brisebois)
- 2-1 Scott (Brisebois)
- 3-1 Asham (Acton)
- 4-1 Acton (2) (Delorme, Bergeron)
- 5-1 Nattress (Scott)
- 6-3 Delorme (Asham, Acton)