Sunday, 19 April 2015

Brampton Thunder host Walter Gretzky and NHL Alumni

In the aftermath of the 2015 Clarkson Cup postseason, the Brampton Thunder suited up for one more game, bringing an official close to their season. Competing in a very special match in front of their hometown faitful, the Thunder faced off against a group of NHL Alumni as part of an ongoing tour sponsored by ScotiaBank. Travelling to various arenas in order to raise funds for charity, funds were raised for the Ontario Law Enforcement Torch run for the Special Olympics.
With legendary hockey dad Walter Gretzky as the NHL Alumni’s head coach, Brampton’s Powerade Centre served as the backdrop for this fun close to Brampton’s season. Joining Gretzky was trainer Joe Sgro, while son Brent Gretzky, who spent two years with the Tampa Bay Lightning was among the pros on the NHL Alumni roster.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs competitors were aplenty on said roster. Among them were the likes of Dan Daoust, Bill Derlago, Al Iafrate, Mike Pelyk (the oldest player participating), Rick Vaive, Mark Laforest and Jack Valiquette. Of note, some of the aforementioned have also given their time for Hockey Helps the Homeless. Other NHLers suiting up included Matt Barnaby, Rob DiMaio, Todd Harvey, Bryan Muir, Stanley Cup champion Mark Napier and Scott Walker.

Of note, the Brampton Thunder’s roster also included a pair of rivals from the Toronto Furies, Kelly Terry and Natalie Spooner, who emerged as Canada’s sweetheart in the aftermath of The Amazing Race Canada. Both members of the Canadian National Women’s team, their one-time appearance with the Thunder loaned a special presence led to a very unique game.

There was another pair of unique aspects for the Thunder on this day. Leah Whittaker, who had to be taken to hospital after suffering an injury during the Furies’ Pink at the Rink Game was back on the ice, allowing fans and teammates alike to breathe a sigh of relief.

Liz Knox, the first rookie goalie in CWHL history to start a Clarkson Cup championship game, was also on the ice, but in a way not familiar to fans. Taking a shift on defense, Knox showed great skill.

Raising money for the Special Olympics, Brampton’s Jesse Scanzano would open the scoring. Having missed two seasons of league play in order to pursue ambitions of a career in law enforcement, her comeback was certainly one of the feel-good moments of the 2014-15 edition of the CWHL season.

As the first goal-scorer of the game, Scanzano was invited to participate in the NHL Alumni tradition of having their photo taken. Taking into account that NHL Alumni games are known for their humour as well as their entertainment value, Scanzano’s photo op resulted in the obligatory pie-in-the-face prank, with fans and players alike roaring in laughter. Other Brampton goals were scored by Danielle Skirrow (one of four Clarkson alums on the roster) and special guest Natalie Spooner.

Like so many other charitable games, the score was not what mattered. The opportunity to raise funds for a good cause while having fun was the true priority. As such, fun ensued with a skills competition, where teams were awarded points based on metrics such as stick handling, shooting accuracy and the ever popular shootout.

Each competition’s winning team would be awarded a point, adding to the existing score. Teams were awarded points based on metrics such as stick handling, shooting accuracy and the ever popular shootout. Brampton would prevail in the stick handling competition while the NHL Alumni won the other two, gaining a 4-3 lead.

During the final frame, both squads added two more goals. Goaltender Mark Laforest would face an attack of shots from the Brampton late in the third period, as the Thunder tried valiantly to tie the score.

References: Don Simmons
Photo credits: John Morrison (Images obtained from Facebook)

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