When the Memorial Cup committee announced there would be an alumni game, they led off with some pretty big NHL names: Taylor Hall, Steven Stamkos, Aaron Ekblad. Only one of those players was actually here, which is what you get when you promote names before you get commitments.
Taylor Hall returned to the team he won back to back Memorial Cups with in 2009 & 2010. He was joined by Spitfires alumni Ed Jovanovski, Adam Henrique, Warren Rychel and many others in the charity event.
Many former and current Maple Leafs are playing as well:
Warren Rychel, Todd Warriner, Colby Armstrong and Jeff Brown were on Team Redm and on Team White were current assistant coach DJ Smith, Matt Martin, loaner Cal O’Reilly, Kerby Rychel, and former assistant coach Steve Staios.
The game played out as charity games usually do. The players who started their careers in the OHA in the 60’s were slower, the current NHLers were trying to play down a few levels.
As with these games, there was much goal scoring, with team White winning the game 13-10. [Cue happy music] The real winner, however, was Smilezone — a charity founded by former Spitfire Adam Graves and Scott Bachly. The charity is “dedicated to putting smiles on the faces of children facing health challenges”. Partial proceeds go to the Windsor Spitfires Foundation as well.
For an alumni game, the turn out was excellent, lots of hardcore Spitfires fans in attendance, with Taylor Hall, Ed Jovanovski and Joel Quenneville getting the loudest cheers at introductions, as well as Mark Renaud, father of the late Spitfires captain Mickey Renaud, whose #18 is painted on the ice behind the nets each season.
After the game the players stopped to sign autographs for fans in the hallway from the change rooms to the media centre, and after giving their time to us, they headed upstairs to the jam packed foyer of the WFCU centre to sign autographs for the waiting fans.
Afterwards I spoke with a few players.
Cal O’Reilly had high praise for the Marlies and the Rochester Americans on how they treat their players, he said that it varies wildly in the AHL but the Amerks and Maries were tops of the league. He said he hasn’t discussed contracts for next season yet and is waiting for the July 1st window to open, but would be open to returning to the Maple Leafs.
Matt Martin spoke very highly of his teammates who played at the World Championships. “Marner, Willy, what they did was amazing. Zaitsev was great. There was about 30 of them there so I don’t want to leave anyone out.” Asked about how he felt heading into free agency, the uncertainty and then signing with the Leafs, Martin loved his decision. “You hear a lot of things about Toronto, about the media, and the attention, there’s criticisms and people are very critical there, but at the same time there’s no better place to play. It comes with the territory, and we want to have success there and win a cup there. That would last a lifetime in a city like that. They love their hockey team and want to win.”
About the playoff atmosphere in Toronto: “It was amazing. At the start of the year you saw a lot of Raptors, a lot of Blue Jays stuff, but as the season went on and we started winning it started to come out, a little more, a little more, and all of a sudden it flooded the streets. In the first round of the playoffs you couldn’t walk through Maple Leaf Square. It was amazing to be a part of. It’s just the beginning of this team. The city will be behind us as long as we come ready to play.”
Talking about the pressure year two: “They’ve done a good job rebuilding this, and getting everyone to understand it will take time. It didn’t take as much time as I guess everyone thought it would. Expectations will grow, and they should, for us to do better next year. There’s no satisfaction, nothing to write home about [losing in the first two rounds]. No one remembers that so you have to work to get past there.”
Probably one of the most famous Spitfires alumni of late, Taylor Hall returned to the city and team he won back to back Memorial Cups with. Asked about how coming home has gone: “It’s great, seeing fans, seeing the team, seeing the arena workers, it’s all been great. With the Spits in the finals, that makes it even more special.” Asked about keeping in touch with people from those years: “I’m really close with my billet family, it’s been great to see them again. Being in the city brings a lot of great memories back. You’re having the time of your life but you don’t know it at the time.” Thinking about heading into the tournament in 2009, for the first time: “2009 was a grind, we had to win 4 in a row to get the championship, 2010 we made it a little easier on ourselves. Both years had their challenges, but we were such a close team that no matter win or lose, we were having a good time.” On this years team: “They’re a great team and they put themselves in a great spot. Hosts, making it to the finals, they have to use the crowds energy. Enjoy it, have fun, it’s the last game of the year.”
Finally, the most important question asked this weekend:
Failed my boaters licence again. I'm a joke I just want my licence— Taylor Hall (@hallsy09) June 22, 2011
Yes i realize its an online test and it's open book but I still failed it twice— Taylor Hall (@hallsy09) June 22, 2011
seldo: A few years ago you shared the story of trying to get your boating exam...did you ever get it? You never finished the story.
Hall: [laughing] Oh, yeah, yeah, I got it, it’s fine.
There you go Hockey Twitter, the saga is now over.
The Windsor Spitfires play the Erie Otters tomorrow night at 7PM.
You can buy tickets here, but as of writing there were only 6 left to purchase, you can always check Kijiji, but the going rate is $300 per.
You can watch the game on Sportsnet, NHL Networld or streaming via CHL Live.