Saturday, 1 January 2011

Alumni Fantasy Hockey

If there's one thing that I think is the best part of the hockey world, it's that players of all ages can play. It doesn't matter if you're twenty or eighty, as long as you can strap the pads on and tie the skates up, the game is yours to behold. In the NHL, players are always welcomed back for alumni games - a sign that once you're part of the game, you remain a part of the game for life. Thanks to this weekend's Winter Classic, we got to see an alumni game of immense proportions as the legends of the Washington Capitals played the legends of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the results were something out of a timeless fantasy hockey draft!

This isn't going to be some long-winded article about how great the old players were and all of their accomplishments. After all, if you're a hockey fan, you're aware of Mario Lemieux's work on the ice and Peter Bondra's blazing speed and sniper's aim. Instead, this will just be a few pictures of one of the events that should receive more coverage during the Winter Classic. Enjoy, and I'll have a little more after the pictures!

  • The biggest star in Pittsburgh hockey looked good in the game as Mario Lemieux was front and center. #66 recorded two assists in the game, and looked like he was having a ton of fun mixing it up with friends and foes.
  • These two guys put up a lot of points together. Mario Lemieux and Paul Coffey, two Hall of Famers, were key cogs in the Penguins' Stanley Cup run of 1991. Coffey still look pretty good for an "old-timer".
  • The 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins got key contributions from these two men. Ron Francis was, in my estimation, the reason the Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the 1990s. Rick Tocchet gave them the grit and skill they desperately needed down the wing.
  • Speaking of key contributions, how about experience and a solid defensive game from this decorated man? Bryan Trottier won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders, and captured another two Cups with the Penguins in his latter years.
  • One of the most recognizable Capitals certainly looked good in the game. Peter Bondra scored the game-tying goal with just 44.3 seconds remaining in the game - a goal that felt like Bondra of his old NHL days. Bondra looks like he could still contribute in the NHL.
  • Another of the Capitals who played during the Penguins' Stanley Cup days was defenceman Sylvain Cote. Cote is a player who I always felt was largely underrated in Washington due to his solid defensive play. Cote looked like he was having fun on Friday.
  • Check out the Penguins' alumni. That's Mario Lemieux, Rob Brown, Phil Bourque, and Peter Taglianetti. Back in the day, that was a solid line with some scoring and grit. Taglianetti is often one of the forgotten warriors from the Penguins' blueline.
  • A guy who started his career with the Penguins, but found Stanley Cups elsewhere, was Craig Simpson. Simpson was a mainstay in the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty during their run of Stanley Cups, and he's a solid broadcaster now.
  • The two teams battled hard on Friday morning, but there were lots of laughs and a few memorable moments. In the end, both teams played well and all of the players looked like they had a lot of fun in the 5-5 tie. Again, this is a great event, and CBC and/or NBC should really look at televising the alumni games during the Winter Classic.
The roster of the teams included a number of legends. The Capitals were represented by Peter Bondra, Dino Ciccarelli, Michal Pivonka, Sylvain Cote, Don Beaupre, Pat Ribble, Ken Sabourin, Yvon Labre, Mark Lofthouse, Nick Kypreos, Alan Hanglesben, Dean Evason, Errol Rausse, Alan May, Craig Laughlin, John Druce, Dennis Maruk, Greg Adams, Blair Stewart, Gord Lane, Robert Picard, Paul Mulvey and J.R. Reich. The coaches included Granny Grant, Joe Reekie and Bucky Gallagher.

The Penguins were led by Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Larry Murphy and Bryan Trottier, in addition to Rod Buskas, Gary Roberts, Greg Malone, Bob Errey, Billy Guerin, Jay Caufield, Craig Simpson, Francois Leroux, Gary Rissling, Troy Loney, Kevin Stevens, Gilles Meloche, Phil Bourque, Dave Hannan, Peter Taglianetti, Warren Young, Frank Pietrangelo, Rob Brown and Rick Tocchet. The coaches were Eddie Johnston, Randy Hillier and Pierre Larouche. The Penguins' honorary GM was Jack Riley.

This game was a great way to kick off the big event, and the Winter Classic looks like it started well! The current Penguins and Capitals will play in the evening tonight, so adjust your timers if you're planning on recording the game!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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