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Team Lidstrom prevails in Haggar Hall of Fame Legends Classic

Defeats Team Sundin in game where 'anybody under the age of 40 keeps getting the puck'

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

TORONTO -- Three ways that you immediately knew that the Haggar Hall of Fame Legends Classic on Sunday wasn't on the up and up:

Team captains Mats Sundin and Nicklas Lidstrom arrived at Scotiabank Arena together an hour before the game, chatting amiably as they walked toward their dressing rooms.

"This kind of pregame fraternizing must be against the rules," Lidstrom was told, to which he replied, with a laugh, "The new NHL!"

One dressing room was assigned to the game's three female players, the seats of Hayley Wickenheiser and Marie-Philip Poulin of Team Sundin flanking that of Jayna Hefford, of Team Lidstrom. No team secrets here, then.

"This is quite nerve-wracking," Poulin said upon her arrival. "It's quite amazing to be out there with those big names. I'll take a moment at the beginning to pinch myself to be aware that I'm around them."

The current captain of Canada women's national team and two-time Olympic gold medalist then admitted with a grin that not only had she not scouted her opponent, she didn't even know who her coaches were.

And finally, referee Bill McCreary and linesman Ray Scapinello suited up in Team Sundin's dressing room. 

The Legends Classic, which consists of two periods plus a shootout, is a fan-friendly event that's deemed a success if every player is vertical at the finish. It's about camaraderie, about players and coaches renewing and making new friendships while entertaining fans with their antics and, sometimes, even their playmaking and goal-scoring.

The pregame ceremony featured the honorees of the Class of 2019, one day before their induction, being presented at center ice with their crested blazers by Hall chairman Lanny McDonald. Players Guy Carbonneau, Wickenheiser, Vaclav Nedomansky and Sergei Zubov, and builders Jim Rutherford and Jerry York were celebrated by the two teams and a crowd of about 10,000, the event beginning at 4 p.m. ET after downtown Toronto's 115th annual Santa Claus parade.

Switching hats to that of a coach, McDonald wasn't certain which player on his roster he'd be targeting for his game-long heckling, a trademark of his coaching style in this exhibition.

"There was no curfew last night," McDonald said as he arrived, trying unsuccessfully to snarl. "So we'll see."

Unlike teammate Poulin, Team Sundin's Wendel Clark said he had done plenty of scouting, but not of the opposition.

"Anybody under the age of 40 keeps getting the puck," the 53-year-old said. "Give it to them, they can carry it."

Carbonneau and Zubov, playing for Team Lidstrom, and Wickenheiser, playing for Team Sundin, all reported for second-period duty, having hustled into uniform following the blazer presentation.

In the end, Team Lidstrom would defeat Team Sundin 12-11 in a shootout, the game tied 8-8 at the end of regulation. Scoring for the winners: Michael Cammalleri and Ryan Smyth (two each), Joey Kocur, Stephane Richer, Lidstrom and Dino Ciccarelli. For Team Sundin: Clark and Sundin (two each), Wickenheiser, Poulin, Al Iafrate and Nik Antropov. 

Zubov, Hefford, Lidstrom and Smyth scored for the winners in the shootout while Wickenheiser, Sundin and Steve Thomas scored for Team Sundin.

For Sundin, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, the day was all about friendship and making it from puck drop to the final siren, and trying to get an edge on fellow captain Lidstrom (Class of 2015).

"I play tennis and do other things to try to stay in shape," he joked, later demonstrating his soccer skills by booting the puck off his stick to score in the shootout. "I laced up this morning -- yeah, morning skate with Nicklas. Actually, he didn't. I skated at the Maple Leafs training facility just to get a little edge on him. We had a pregame meal, too. Pizza and salad."

Goal-scorer Poulin would eventually learn that her coaches were McDonald and York, and if there'd been an award for best line of the day, it would have gone to former Montreal Canadiens sniper Richer. 

The two-time 50-goal scorer walked slowly down an arena corridor toward his dressing room before the game, studying many framed photographs of Maple Leafs Stanley Cup championship celebrations.

"You'll notice," Richer said with a grin, "that they're all in black and white."

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