It wasn’t the Montreal Forum or the Molson Centre, but the Montreal Canadiens Alumni certainly felt right at home Sunday at the Comox Valley Sports Centre when a sea of red-white-and-blue clad fans turned out for the 2015 Mayor’s Cup fundraising hockey game.
The warm welcome from their Comox Valley faithful was highlighted by young Rebekah Draper singing O Canada in both English and French, which earned her a personal “merci beaucoup” from each player in the Habs’ lineup.
The format featured the Canadiens’ alumni bolstering mayor Paul Ives Comox team against the Hab-Nots of Courtenay, with Courtenay mayor Larry Jangula guiding their fortunes behind the bench. Former Courtenay mayor and team captain Greg Phelps was in the announcer’s booth for this game.
The Habs prevailed 14-4, but the real winners were young Comox Valley athletes.
Proceeds from the game were shared between KidSport Comox Valley and Comox Valley Minor Hockey Association, and with almost 500 fans in the stands, Ives said the event was a big success.
“It’s still in the early stages, but it looks like we … will exceed what we raised last year for KidSport last year, which was about $4,500. We did a little better than that, and the same for minor hockey. Essentially we will have doubled the fundraising capacity, which is what this was all about.”
Fans particularly enjoyed the second period intermission when players from the CVMHA Novice evaluation team took to the ice with the Habs Alumni.
After greeting goalie Riley Brown-Hudema, Stephane Richer then grabbed the water bottle and gave him a shower. Gilbert Delorme, who had been urging the crowd to cheer after the Habs scored, got his comeuppance when he unwisely decided to drop the gloves with Anthony Alexander, who scored a unanimous decision – earning him the cheers that eluded Delorme.
That mock battle had the crowd roaring in laughter, but Ives said the Hab-Nots players were careful about not even pretending to engage Chris “Knuckles” Nilan in any extra-curricular activity.
There were more laughs when Richer froze the puck along the boards in front of the Canadiens’ bench, and when the young Novice players skated over to the boards, several were “hijacked” into the players’ bench.
The smooth-skating and crisp-passing Habs were fun to watch, and Richer elicited an audible gasp when he boomed a Danny Gallavin-esque “cannonading drive” off the end boards (and deliberately wide of the net, much to the goalie’s relief) that resounded around the rink.
Ives, who is a huge Habs fan, said it was a treat playing alongside some of his hockey idols. “They are quite friendly and down-to-earth guys. Real ambassadors for the game,” Ives said.
ICE CHIPS The Habs missed the 8 a.m. Sunday BC Ferry out of Powell River due to weather, but those who purchased VIP tickets for a meet and greet at Crown Isle that morning were able to get autographs and photos in the Habs’ dressing room during the second intermission … Ives said the Canadiens Alumni had been trying to come to the West Coast for a few years … they played three games in three days on this road swing: Esquimalt on Friday, Powell River on Saturday and Courtenay on Sunday … the Alumni play about 60 games a year …