Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
March 6, 2016, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Vancouver Canucks alumni team overcame a 6-1 deficit and scored nine goals in a row, to go on to an 11-7 victory over the Canadian Forces Wounded Warriors in the Heroes Hockey Challenge game played Sunday night at The Q Centre in Colwood.
Members of the CF Warriors on the blue line during the National Anthem Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Now in its fifth year following NHL alumni games in Calgary, Vancouver, Abbotsford, Edmonton and Toronto, the Heroes Hockey Challenge (HHC) is a series of charitable hockey fundraising events which take place annually in communities across Canada. HHC raises funds to support ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, their families, and families of the fallen and have raised close to $250,000 to date.
CF Warriors Captain Gilles Couturier (left) and Canucks Captain Dave Babych (right) participate with Canuck coaches Orland Kurtenbach, Darcy Rota and Gary Bromley and honoured guests Lt. Gov. Judith Gichon, Dr. and Mrs. Nuttall (Silver Cross Family), Master Corporal (retired) Paul Franklin (Wounded Warrior) and Seaman Stephon Mullett in the opening face-off on Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Sunday’s game at The Q Centre was the first time the event has been in Victoria and on Vancouver Island and is being held as part of the National Canadian Armed Forces Old Timers Championships being played in Esquimalt from March 5th through 11th.
Warriors Captain Gilles Couturier (left) chats with Canuck alumni Matt Pettinger (right) and Kyle Wellwood (centre) prior to Sunday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
It was those military “old-timers” who perhaps forgot for a moment that they were playing a team of former NHLers, as they would jump all over Canuck goaltender Terry Bingley and a defence that featured the likes of Dave Babych, Gary Nylund, Doug Bodger and Larry Melnyk, for six goals in the first 15 minutes of the first half (the game consisted of two 30-minute, running time halves) to hold an early 6-1 lead.
Canucks alumnus Dave “Tiger” williams (right) imparts some wisdom (perhaps a warning?) to the Warriors bench prior to the game Sunday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Warriors then became star-struck, or so it seemed and after shifty forward Kyle Wellwood scored twice for the Canucks before the break to cut the lead to 6-3 at the intermission, the green and blue alumni would strike for seven straight goals in the second half to jump into 10-6 lead and then carry on to the 11-7 final.
The Canucks Kyle Wellwood (42) would score four goals for the blue and green alumnis on Sunday, including this pretty between the legs flip shot over the shoulder of Warriors goaltender Ken Simoneau (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Wellwood and his Canuck linemates, Victoria natives Geoff Courtnall and Matt Pettinger, were by far the highlights of the night, accounting for six goals and six assists on the night. Wellwood led the pack with four goals and two assists, while the smooth-skating Courtnall added a single goal and three assists, with Pettinger adding one of each.
Victoria native Geoff Courtnall (14) looked like he could step back into an NHL line-up, scoring a goal and three assists Sunday in the win over the Warriors (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Fan favourite Dave “Tiger” Williams also had a good night with a pair of goals and an assist, exhibiting his famous “stick ride” goal celebration and getting in a few mock scrums with Warrior players, including throwing a playful butt-end at Warrior goaltender Ken Simoneau, who made some great first period saves to stymie the Canucks in that first half.
Fan favourite Dave “Tiger” Williams would miss on this breakaway chance but score twice later on in Sunday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Other goal scorers for the Canucks included Doug Bodger, BJ MacDonald and guest player Ty Gretzky, who looked very much like his record-setting father Wayne.
The Warriors Paul Ogilvie would avoid this hook from the Canucks Larry Melnyk to get away a shot during the second period Sunday. Ogilvie would have a goal and an assist in the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
For the Warriors, Rod Sturge led the way with two goals and two assists, while Jodie Noseworthy added a pair of goals. Mike Dalton and Paul Ogilvie added a goal and two assists each, while Emmanuel Girard added a single marker.
The Warriors Ghislain Simard looks for a way around Canucks defenceman Doug Bodger during Sunday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Warriors, who came into the game hoping to upset the Canucks alumni and win for the first time in the Challenge series, were not terribly upset by the outcome. “It is so much fun to be able to have these guys come and play here,” said team captain Rear Admiral Gilles Couturier with a huge grin on his face following the game. “Our players look up to and admire the NHL veterans and what they brought to the game during their careers, and for our soldiers, airmen and other members to have the chance to play them was such a great, great opportunity for us.”
Canucks defenceman Gary Nylund had a strong game on the back end Sunday, registering three assists against the Warriors (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Admiral Couturier of course also acknowledged the key reason that the game was being played, “its all about the cause and our foundation. The proceeds from this game will go to help soldiers, sailors and airmen who have challenges when they return home from service and will go a long way to help them to get back to a normal life. It’s a great cause.”
An appreciative Warriror gets his jersey signed by the Canucks Dave Babych at the end of Sunday’s game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The full rosters of each team included:
Terry Bingley, Gary Nylund, Doug Bodger, Mark Lofthouse, Ed Hatoum, BJ MacDonald, Geoff Courtnall, Matt Pettinger, Garry Monahan, Dave “Tiger” Williams, Thomas Gradin, Larry Melnyk, Dan Clark, Kyle Wellwood and Dave Babych. Guest Alumni included Garry Unger, Ty Gretzky and Aaron Pritchett. Coaches were Orland Kurtenbach, Darcy Rota and Gary Bromley.
Reggie Simmons, Ken Simoneau, Gerard Caron, Danny Forbes, Timothy Byers, Mark Kierstead, Shawn Keenan, Randy Leighton, Jodie Noseworthy, Gilles Couturier, Ian Walcott, Dave Quarry, Austin Collett, Emmanuel Girard, Mike Dalton, Ghislain Simard, Rod Sturge, Brian Reid, Paul Ogilvie, Steve Lavallee, Brett Poulin and Bryan Ouellet. Coaches were Jamie Pilatzke, Mike Dobson and Keven Savard