A festive night in Minneapolis as 37,922 people showed up to, "watch a bunch of old timers play," as Minnesota coach Lou Nanne described it. The Minnesota Wild and North Stars alumni took on the alumni from the Chicago Blackhawks. The crowd was boisterous as they gave the likes of Dino Ciccarelli, Wes Walz, Neal Broten, and Mike Modano loud ovations when they were introduced. And they booed the hell out of Jeremy Roenick. The game featured some great goaltending and great moments that brought back fans, and reporters, to yesteryear.
As if it was planned, Ciccarelli and Denis Savard scrapped along near the benches to settle an old score. Yes, the crowd went wild. Denis Maruk started the goal scoring early - just 5:12 into the game. Maruk was able to get behind the Blackhawks defense and didn't miss. Eric Daze then tied the game when he beat Gilles Meloche. Meloche, at 65 years old, was laying everything out on the line with diving saves. Brian Bellows then scored by tapping in rebound. Then, after a slashing penalty on Brad Maxwell, Troy Murray scored on the ensuing penalty shot.
During the first intermission, the Wild ran an 'In Memoriam" on the main video board to tribute the gone, but not forgotten. Minnesota legends like Gump Worsley, Bill Masterton, J.P. Parise, Pavol Demitra, Derek Boogaard got loud ovations, with coaches Herb Brooks and Glen Sonmor getting a nice tribute as well.
Andrew Brunette scored on a penalty shot in the second period to make the score 3-2. "I just went with it. I thought I might fake him, but he didn't really bite," Brunette said as he recapped the goal. "It was old school. It was like turning the channel back to the 1980's. It was a fun night."
The game was a two-hand touch version of hockey, but the guys were competitive. Nanne said, "When that game started going and even though guys can't skate, and they're yelling over the boards from the bench, and everyone wants to win, there's that little extra push because we wanted to end up winning the game. I told 'em before the game, I said, 'this is the last game we're ever going to play against the Blackhawks, we're not losing this game. It's going to be fun. It's going to be special, but if push comes to shove, we're sitting people.'"
Brian Rolston got an assist on the Bellows goal, but couldn't unleash his slapper. "I didn't have any time. With Murray in net, I wasn't about to tee one up." He came in from Michigan to take part in the game. "It was fun. Just a great group of guys. It's really interesting to see the different generations." He got to skate alongside former Wild brethren in Wes Walz, Andrew Brunette, and Richard Park. "The guys that are always on the ice like Wes, and Bruno are still flying around. Guys don't lose their hockey IQ. Obviously the guys can't move like they could, but you can see the details in their game."
Wes Walz scored 12 seconds into the third period to extend the lead. He broke down the right side and sniped it over the shoulder of Jimmy Waite. "Thank goodness it happened in the first 10 seconds of my shift. After about 10 seconds the heart rate gets up to about 190 and you can't do anything. maybe I caught him a little off guard because it was the start of the period." A goal in the first 12 seconds of an alumni game has to be some kind of a record. "I don't know. Do they keep records in the alumni game?" Walz got to have his two youngest kids get a chance to see him play for the first time, "or at least the closest thing to it."
Then the goals came fast and furious. Bobby Smith scored to extend the lead to three goals. Daze scored his second of the night 1:20 later. Jimmy Waite absolutely robbed Mike Modano with a paddle save after Modano deked him out of his pads. Quietly, Don Beaupre was having a fantastic night in net. He made some incredible saves on point-blank shots and stopped nearly everything that came his way before Daze scored. Modano would eventually get his win empty net fashion. Jeremy Roenick, who told the Minnesota crowd to, "boo him all they want," and was abused on the ice by guys like Neal Broten, scored at the final buzzer to make the final 6-4.
It was a fantastic night for everyone involved and the attendance was impressive.