CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, Nfld. -- Patrick Lalime
knows all about the Kraft Hockeyville experience. That's why when he was invited to participate at this year's event, he jumped at the opportunity.
Lalime, 37, was the Buffalo Sabres
' goaltender when the club faced the Montreal Canadiens
in the 2008 Kraft Hockeyville game in Roberval, Que. This year, he is in Newfoundland as part of the Ottawa Senators
' alumni group, just two months removed from announcing his retirement.
"Just the ambience was unbelievable," Lalime said, recalling his experience in the small Quebec town three years ago. "I remember when we were there, it was just non-stop. They were screaming. You could feel the excitement from the people from the city. Even when we came in last night, and then you look at this today … there's not too many places where you open the door and you see the ocean right next door. This is something I had never seen before. It's a lot of fun."
After playing just seven games for the Sabres last season, Laime decided to retire this summer. He will remain in the game, however, as an analyst for RDS.
"Time flies by," said Lalime, who went 200-174-48 with a 2.58 goals-against average in a 12-year career that had stops in Pittsburgh, Ottawa, St. Louis, Chicago and Buffalo. "I totally enjoyed every minute of it when I played. Now I'm on the other side and I'll try to make the best of it and give back as much as I can. We're very fortunate as players to have the time to travel and do the things we love. When we can give back and help, I think it's awesome.
But that doesn't mean the decision to retire wasn't difficult.
"It's not an easy day, that's for sure," Lalime said. "I've been doing that since I'm 5 years old. But you know, it comes to a point where it's time to move on and I think I'm ready for that. Obviously, I'm sure as the season is going on, I'll be like, 'Uh,' and I'll miss the game a little bit. But that's part of it and that's why I'm staying in it right now and doing stuff like this. I think it helps. You see guys and you see people around and you just keep talking about the game you love."
After helping run an on-ice clinic for children in the morning, Lalime spent Saturday afternoon signing autographs for roughly two hours in the parking lot of Robert French Memorial Stadium, where the Stanley Cup also was on display. Hundreds of people gathered not only to jump at the chance to have their pictures taken with Lord Stanley, but also to meet and greet former NHL players such as Lalime, Kris King
, Laurie Boschman
and Shaun Van Allen
It's just one of many activities going on in the small town this weekend that will culminate Monday night with a preseason game between the Senators and Winnipeg Jets
. Lalime admitted that the Jets' return to the NHL will add excitement to what already is a thrilling event for Newfoundlanders.
"What a great timing this is with Winnipeg coming here," Lalime said. "It just makes it even more exciting. I don't know how much more exciting it could be. But just to have Winnipeg come here, a new Canadian team, the fans are just really excited for this."
As they should be. After all, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these folks to have NHL players come to their town. Lalime is lucky enough to now have experienced Kraft Hockeyville twice.
"It's been great both times," Lalime said. "You know, a lot of times those people don't have a chance to come see an NHL game. It's nice that hockey can come to them. I think it's unbelievable. It's a great experience to be a part of."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL