Hockey fans in central Labrador were thrilled to see some former Maple Leafs come to town to play against a local all-star team. The game was at times competitive, other times it was gimmicky and lighthearted. But no matter what the mood on the ice, it was fun to watch from the stands.
The Maple leaf Alumni team included Glenn Anderson, Gary Leeman, Mike Krushelnyski, Al Iafrate, Mark Osbourne, Jack Valiquette (who suited up as a referee), Dave McLwain, and the main attraction; Tiger Williams.
Tiger Williams is a Leafs legend for his ability to be an agitator and a player who would never back down from a fight. He is the NHL’s all time leader in penalty minutes with 3966. Much of those penalty minutes were amassed in his six memorable seasons with the Maple Leafs.
Even though Williams is pushing 60, he still put on a great show by playing up his on ice reputation. During the warm-up, he poked Goose Bay’s players with the butt end of the stick. During the game, he would interfere with the goalie behind the net, and hold other players against the boards.
“First of all it’s hockey,” says Williams on why he enjoys the Alumni games. “Second of all we get to go and see lots of people, lots of things that you would, normally, probably not do.”
Despite all the talent on the Alumni team, the Maxwell’s/Bentley’s team from Goose Bay nearly came out on top. They were beating the former Leafs 7-5 in third period, thanks mostly to outstanding goaltending by Bill Maclean and Perry Eddy.
However, the Alumni team came back and won 10-8. The speedy Dave McLlwain was player of the game for the Maple Leafs, while Marc Bourgeois got the honour for the Maxwell’s/Bentley’s team.
But it wasn’t the final score that fans were interested in; it was the chance to meet hockey idols that they grew up watching on TV.
Some people who came to watch the game weren’t even Leafs fans, or hockey fans. Canadian television star Allan Hawko (better known as Jake Doyle) was on the team, which drew a bunch of Republic of Doyle followers to the E.J. Broomfield Arena. Hawko grew up as a die-hard Maple Leafs fan, so he jumped at the opportunity to travel with the Alumni team.
“I would have killed someone to play,” joked Hawko. “Luckily a homicide didn’t have to take place.
“It’s a dream come true. It sounds kind of clichéd, but it really was…when I had a give and go with Glenn Anderson last night (in Labrador City) I panicked and missed the net.”
Tiger Williams may have been the main attraction for Maple Leafs fans, but he certainly wasn’t the only one. The team had a great variety, with different reasons for people to meet the players and hear their stories.
Glenn Anderson is in the Hockey Hall of fame and won six Stanley cups as a player (five with the Edmonton Oilers). At the end of his career, he had amassed 1099 regular season points. But it was incredible performances come playoff time that gained him the most respect. In 225 post-season games, he recorded an incredible 214 points. He never shied away from signing an autograph while in town, and he was bombarded with requests to sign jerseys, pamphlets, sticks and hockey cards.
Residents from Happy Valley-Goose Bay who met the fan-friendly Mike Krushelnyski were offered a rare opportunity. Krushelnyski would produce a loop of string, and on that loop were four golden Stanley Cup rings. He would then encourage the wide-eyed fan to try them on.
Jack Valiquette was easygoing on and off the ice. He’s full of quirky hockey stories from the infamous Harold Ballard era of the Toronto Maple Leafs — such as the time Head Coach Red Kelly hung pyramids in the dressing room, believing they provided positive energy.
According to Valiquette, Darryl Sittler once taped his stick directly under one of the pyramids and scored five goals that game. Valiquette also summed up perfectly why these former hockey stars love to travel to small towns and play in these alumni games.
“We get to see an old Canada better than most people will ever get a chance to; straight from coast to coast and we get to meet the locals,” says Valiquette. “We live in a great country…you meet people who are upbeat, that’s a very unique experience.”