Greatest Stars top Canadiens Alumni, 8-5

Photo: Kathy K.,
Photo: Kathy K.,

By Kathy, Associate Editor, All Habs Hockey Magazine

MONTREAL, QC—Yesterday afternoon at the Bell Centre, La Classique des Étoiles l’Équipeur gave new hockey fans the opportunity to catch up on what they had missed in years past, while fans who grew up watching players on both rosters (yours truly included) got a rare chance to turn back the clock to their younger years.  All of this for a great cause, too, as proceeds from the event will benefit the Montreal Canadiens Alumni as well as the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation.

A pre-game brunch was held at the Mise au Jeu restaurant, which offered a few lucky families the chance to meet and greet the Nilans, Carbonneaus, Stastnys, Robitailles and more while many of the players and coaches on both teams were just catching up for the first time in years with their “teammates” and “opponents” for the day, shaking hands and sharing laughs. As the two teams sat and ate close to one another, they took turns evaluating their strengths and weaknesses.  There were fresher faces (and legs!) on both sides, and the youth factor fell more on the side of the Canadiens, according to Theo Fleury.  Not much in terms of strategy was discussed. “Michel (Bergeron) is not much of an X’s and O’s coach,” said former Nordique Michel Goulet. But as it turned out, Bergeron and Jacques Demers were behind the winning bench.

The game itself started off slowly, as both teams had a few cobwebs to shake off. But it only took a few shots on the part of the Canadiens Alumni for the game’s first goal by Vincent Damphousse, which was quickly met with a reply from the Greatest Stars as Scott Mellanby got his team on the board.  Canadiens Alumni goaltender Richard Sevigny kept out quite a few pucks from there, notably preventing the Stars from adding to their momentum with the classic double-stacked pad save.  Not long afterwards, Denis Savard fed Mathieu Darche to restore the Canadiens’ lead, and that was how the first period ended.

To start the second, Raymond Bourque went down on an apparent tripping play that resulted in a penalty shot for the Stars, and that soon led to the game being tied once again. After Guy Carbonneau put his team back in front, current Habs’ assistant coach Gerard Gallant put his first goal of the game behind Sevigny, knotting the game back up for a third time, and he was followed up not long afterwards by Glenn Anderson, who gave the Greatest Stars their first lead.

Gallant’s second of the game started a flurry of action on both sides that saw the Canadiens come close several times.  Chris Chelios made it 5-4 before the close of the period, and that would prove to be his last goal in the Canadiens’ uniform.

Marc Bergevin and Chris Chelios trade places and open up the third period. Photo: Kathy K.,
Marc Bergevin and Chris Chelios trade places and open up the third period.
Photo: Kathy K.,

Marc Bergevin, general manager of the current edition of the bleu, blanc et rouge, started the game on the other side, in his Chicago Blackhawks’ jersey.  However, before the final frame got underway, a special in-game trade announcement was made that Chelios would be the one suiting up for the Greatest Stars, in his Blackhawks’ jersey, while Bergevin would make the switch to the Canadiens Alumni team.

The results of the switch were evident for the team already up by one. Scott Mellanby bolstered the Greastest Stars’ lead with his second of the game and Bryan Trottier and Peter Stastny added tallies of their own for 8-4. Finally, Guy Carbonneau would respond for the Canadiens but it was too little, too late, as the game ended 8-5 in favour of the visitors.

Alex Kovalev in his first game since his retirement. Photo: Kathy K.,
Alex Kovalev in his first game since his retirement. Photo: Kathy K.,

A late addition to the Canadiens’ alumni lineup was Alex Kovalev, who had announced his retirement days before the game.  After the game, he spoke of his mixed feelings about participating, when he felt he could still be part of the action in the current NHL. “Definitely not ready for these games yet,” he said. “But for a good cause, I don’t mind [playing in one].”

Attendance was announced at being over 10,000 fans, many of them young families.  The Greatest Hockey Stars, featuring the Canadiens and NHL alumni, have been touring the province and various other parts of the country for over thirty years now, and don’t look to hang them up anytime soon.

All Habs was grateful to be granted ice-level and locker room access. Watch for our extensive gallery of photos from this event to be posted soon.