Former three-time NHL 50 goal scorer Rick Vaive still has his touch as he scored a hat trick and added an assist to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni to a 12-3 win over the Halifax Mariners at the Scotiabank Centre on Sept. 25.
A few of the notable Maple Leafs to play in the game were Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark, Tiger Williams and former Halifax Mooseheads star goaltender J.S Giguere.
“It was great, it was a lot of fun, we had a great group of guys and we played against a great fun team to make it entertaining,” said Clark, an alumnus and Community Ambassador of the Maple Leafs.
The alumni were in Halifax along with the current Maple Leafs who are holding training camp at the BMO Centre in Bedford from Sept. 23-26 to start their Centennial Anniversary.
Nik Antropov scored the game’s first goal for the alumni 47 seconds into the game. He had the puck in front of the net, deked backhand, and shot the puck into the net.
Almost a minute later Vaive passed the puck to Tom Fergus in the slot and he shot the puck over the goaltender’s glove and into the net. Fergus returned the favor 26 seconds later when he assisted on Vaive’s first goal.
The alumni led 5-0 after the first period and carried the momentum on to a 12-3 win. Even though the alumni were playing against the Halifax Mariners, a team made up of military members from the different bases in Halifax, Vaive doesn’t believe that means the alumni should have taken it easy on them.
“I think they (the fans) are thinking ‘I just want to get a glimpse of him playing now and see if it compares at all to what it was like 25 or 35 years ago’ so I think you put your best effort in,” said Vaive.
Regardless of the score both teams had lots of fun. Bob McGill, who has the second most penalty minutes in a single season by a Leafs defenseman at 263, playfully got on top of a Mariner’s player and pretended to sucker punch him.
Later, when Tiger Williams scored the fourth goal of the game he performed his famous goal celebration, skating to center ice, putting his stick between his legs, squatting and pointing toward his goalie.
In the second period Gilmour lightly collided with a Mariner player that knocked both of them off balance. When the Mariner player got back up Clark playfully knocked him back down to the ice.
The game free to the public but the Leafs asked fans to donate money to the Halifax and Region Military Family Resource Centre. It is a not-for-profit organization that helps military families deal with the challenges military life can bring. The alumni game raised $10,000 for the organization.
“It means a lot,” said Warrant Officer Alan Arsenault, who played in the game. “There are so many families struggling… with people being deployed, PTSD… it’s so tough. It’s so great to see these events raising money to help the families because it’s definitely needed.”
“Whenever we can help them in any way, shape or form it’s special to us because those are the people who put their lives on the line for us,” Vaive said. “It’s funny, I’ve played against them in a few games and they’re thanking you and I’m saying to myself hold on, I gotta thank you.”
Even though the majority of the alumni are at least 10 years removed from their NHL days, Arsenault said it was obvious that they were NHL players.
“Darryl Sittler… here is a guy who I think is 65 years old (Sittler turned 66 on Sept. 18) making passes like he is a 20 year old. They still have it.”
Arsenault is a self proclaimed big Maple Leafs fan, and said it was amazing to play against former Leafs like Gilmore, Clark and Williams.
“It was a dream… If I was to make a bucket list I would never ask for this because I would think it was absolutely impossible.”