With bragging rights and ownership of the Heroes Hockey Challenge Cup on the line at Greater Victoria’s "Q Centre" last weekend (March 6th), things did not start well for the former pros. The tri-service Canadian Military squad wearing the “Wounded Warriors” jerseys came roaring out of the starting blocks, surging to a 6-1 lead before the first period was even half over. But the Canuck stalwarts weren’t going to let things get out of hand. Encouraged somewhat by Alumni sophomore Kyle Wellwood first two goals of the game, the visitors went into the half-time break down by a mere 6-3 deficit, despite 'Welly' missing a golden opportunity to notch one more on a penalty shot awarded late in the opening frame.
Head coach Orland Kurtenbach and assistants Darcy Rota and former goalie Gary Bromley obviously used the intermission to regroup with captain Dave Babych, because the Alumni came back with a goal 40 seconds into the second and final stanza … and promptly followed up by netting another half-dozen to reclaim the lead and, effectively, put the decision on ice. Final score: Canuck Alumni 11, Wounded Warriors 7. Wellwood proved to be the big gun for the visitors, tallying four goals on the night. He had help: Dave ’Tiger” Williams, joining the team from Saskatchewan for this special event, potted a pair while Island residents Geoff Courtnall, Matt Pettinger and Doug Bodger contributed singles. The “Great One’s” hockey-playing son, Ty Gretzky flew in from California to get in on the goal-scoring as well, along with veteran Canuck Alumnus B.J. MacDonald, who tallied once and helped set up three more.
Special mention has to go to netminder Terry Bingley, who stood on his head in the closing 45 minutes and stopped all but one puck fired his way. Likewise, the playmaking of the smooth-skating Thomas Gradin and the blueline contributions from defenders Gary Nylund and Larry Melnyk helped ensure the win. A few familiar - and not-so-familiar - faces graced the Alumni lineup for this contest: one-time NHL ‘Iron Man’ Garry Unger dropped in from Banff while veterans Ed Hatoum, Mark Lofthouse, Garry Monahan, Danny Clark and Canadian Country Music award-winner Aaron Pritchett made the crossing from the Mainland to help round out the squad.
This is the second time the Canuck Alumni have taken on the Wounded Warriors in the annual battle for the Hockey Heroes hardware. In the inaugural edition in 2013 they also emerged with a win. Of course, the biggest winners from each of these contests are the PPCLI’s Hockey Heroes Foundation and the work they do in support of Canada’s wounded and fallen military and their families across the country.
Photo credit: Christian J. Stewart / ISN