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Legends give kids memories that last a lifetime

by John McGourty /
TORONTO -- Sunday's Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Classic game at Air Canada Centre matched the Montreal Canadiens Legends, in honor of the team's Centennial celebration, and the All-Star Legends. The game is always one of the highlights of the hockey season, a chance to see great players from the past once again.

The players in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s, obviously don't play at the speed they had at the peak of their careers, but it's fun to see them again. And one of the highlights is the constant commentary of former NHL referee Ron Hoggarth and his on-ice partner Rod Black, a Canadian broadcaster. The play on the ice is somewhat competitive, but about half of Hoggarth's role is scripted and the rest springs from the on-ice action.

One of the scripted parts took a surprising turn and subsequently recalled a former NHL player who couldn't be here, the late Steve Durbano.

Late in the first period, Hoggarth got Canadiens Legends coach Jacques Demers to admit he was tired of his players. "They're too slow," Demers said.

With that Hoggarth ordered all the ancient Canadiens off the ice and a full team of Atoms dressed in Canadiens sweaters appeared. All the kids wore No. 1, which made for some interesting announcing, but then a floating Peter Stastny broke away on the young goalie at full speed, hit the brakes at the crease, sending up an ice shower, pulled the puck back and flipped it into the goalie's belly. It fell to the ice and the mini-masked man collapsed face-first on it, the funniest, unscripted moment of the afternoon.

Later, spotted a pair of 6-year-olds with their parents. The boys were wearing Markham Waxers sweaters. The Waxers are one of Canada's great youth hockey organizations and they had the chance Sunday to be the Montreal Canadiens. The boys were waiting to get autographs.

Craig Durbano was the Waxer goalie who "stopped" Stastny and P.J. Bauer had scored a goal. Doing those things in the Air Canada Centre is a memory that will last a lifetime. Craig's father, Patrick, is Steve's cousin and said his son doesn't remember his uncle. Craig was asked how it felt when Stastny showered him.

"Bad -- it was cold. I wasn't expecting it. I thought he'd stop and shoot the puck."

But he did shoot and you stopped it, Craig was told.

"It went in my glove."

Then you fell on it, just like you're supposed to.


Stasty said something to you. What was it?

"Good save."

Toronto-born Steve Durbano played for the North York Jr. Bs and the Toronto Jr. Marlies before going on to a six-year NHL career in the 1970s, playing with the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Kansas City Scouts-Colorado Rockies. He also played in the World Hockey Association. He passed away in 2002.

Still skating after all these years -- Slava Fetisov is here to celebrate Igor Larionov's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Dean Chynoweth, the former Islanders defenseman, is here to celebrate the induction of his father, the late Ed Chynoweth.

Larionov and Glenn Anderson, also an inductee, skated in the Legends game.

You'd be surprised how well so many can still skate, stickhandle and shoot. Tiger Williams always has a few tricks during warmups. Tiger picked up a puck on the backhand side of his blade, skated into the slot and fired a backhand shot behind his back that cleared the top of the net by a foot and hit the glass behind with an explosive sound. There's still a lot of power in his body.

Larry Robinson finds a minute of two to skate a lap with just about every player. Cliff Ronning, in white skates, bounced a pass off the corner boards that landed right on the tape of Bryan Trottier's stick as he headed up the right boards. Still got it.

Dave Ellett still skates with power, as does Steve Shutt, 56 and fit. The classy Vincent Damphousse looks as fit and strong as ever. So does Dale Hawerchuk. Jyrki Lumme and Doug Jarvis just glided around, laughing and laughing. Stastny still looks like he's gliding, but he's eating up ice with every stride. Pure power.

Gary Leeman proudly wears his Canadiens sweater. Didn't he get famous with the Maple Leafs? Aren't we in Toronto? Gutsy Brian Savage, a class act who came back from a broken neck, still looks like the devil with that goatee. Mark Messier is bald, but Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald still have the big hair, gray now. Sergio Momesso is huge, really huge. Only Peter Mahovlich comes close in size. Trottier still looks like the best-balanced skater you ever saw.

And the strangest sight of all, former Islanders goalie Billy Smith laughing and joking with opposing forwards. The world has turned upside down.

The fans rocked the building when former Maple Leafs Wendel Clark, Borje Salming, Tiger Williams and Lanny McDonald were introduced. That's what happens when you give everything you have, kids.

"It's a love affair that's been going on since 1985," Clark said.

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