Telling tales with Tiger and other NHL alumni

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer — Ni­cholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca.

Na­tional Hockey League leg­end Dave “Tiger” Wil­liams is sit­ting on a bench in dress­ing room No. 5 at the Twin Rinks in St. John’s.

Across from him is an­other NHL alumni, Kevin Maguire. The two had just fin­ished a pair of games as a part of the Hockey He­roes Weekend May 16-18 in sup­port of the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion, and are hold­ing court with just over a half­dozen fans.

For those un­sure, the Hockey He­roes Weekend brought in 14 for­mer NHL play­ers rang­ing from Joe Nieuwendyk to Todd War­riner to play with 14 teams in a fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke, which cul­mi­nated in Heart He­roes game on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

Wil­liams and Maguire were trad­ing sto­ries of life on the road, play­ing in the pros and just about any other ques­tion the fans wanted an­swered.

Else­where in the arena, other pros like Gary Roberts, Al Iafrate, Brian Propp, Gil­bert Dionne, Brad May, Mike Krushel­nyski, Gary Lee­man, Rick Vaive, Dale Haw­er­chuk and Matthew Barnaby are do­ing the same.

I had the hon­our of play­ing in the tour­na­ment, which was su­perbly or­ga­nized with funds raised go­ing to a great cause. It was the sec­ond time in a cou­ple of months that I have had the priv­i­lege of play­ing with NHL alumni.

As I sat on a bench across from both Maguire and Wil­liams, lis­ten­ing to them re­lay sto­ries back-and-forth, it oc­curred to me what makes these events so pop­u­lar. I had al­ways thought these things are about nos­tal­gia, which they are, but there is some­thing else which bring people back to play. It is those sto­ries. Ev­ery one wants to hear them.

Those who played were en­thralled by that one night in ju­nior, or the 1990 NHL En­try Draft. They lis­ten in­tently as the alumni give their thoughts on pro­jected top-10 picks and cur­rent play­ers. Maybe these sto­ries come in the dress­ing room in be­tween games, on the bench or in the park­ing lot along with a cou­ple of adult bev­er­ages.

These events tie people to­gether. They tie the pros with the play­ers and vice versa. There is this con­nec­tion es­tab­lished that goes be­yond fans on the out­side look­ing in.

They were brought into that life­style. They es­tab­lish them­selves in the NHL hi­er­ar­chy.

There are bonds formed and con­nec­tions es­tab­lished. As the fans re­turn to their ev­ery­day lives, they will tell co-work­ers, par­ents, part­ners and chil­dren of the weekend they spent hang­ing out with the pros.

Un­doubt­edly, there are count­less tales of set­ting up Rick Vaive up for a goal or “fight­ing” Brad May be­ing told around wa­ter cool­ers in mul­ti­ple of­fices.

And, it’s not just the fans who get a lot from the ex­pe­ri­ence. The pros also bring some­thing back with them. They get to see old friends and team­mates again, along with a slew of new ex­pe­ri­ences.

Watch­ing them in­ter­act with the pub­lic, it is not hard to think they left this weekend with new friends and ac­quain­tances. They’ve got sto­ries to share with on their next tour stops in Cal­gary, Monc­ton, etc. You have to go to New­found­land, they’ll tell them. They have great people and it’s re­ally well run.

They’ve made con­nec­tions, too. They’ve met people they won’t for­get.

In the end, fans and alumni are one and the same.

Mak­ing these ex­pe­ri­ences all the more bet­ter is the fact they came with rais­ing money for a wor­thy cause.

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