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Centennial Classic

Mike Palmateer dazzles in Alumni Game

Maple Leafs goalie's first-period save leaves players buzzing

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

TORONTO -- Toronto Maple Leafs alumni goalie Mike Palmateer, 14 days shy of his 63rd birthday, doesn't think his turn-back-the-clock, sprawling, reaching, reactionary glove save on Tomas Holmstrom's first-period penalty shot was all that special. He doesn't think it should be remembered as the iconic moment in the 2017 Rogers NHL Centennial Classic Alumni Game. 

To Palmateer, who played in the NHL from 1976-84, it was the type of second-effort save he has made hundreds, if not thousands of times in his life. He didn't think much of it, in fact. 

"It's kind of a classic save for me," Palmateer said following the Detroit Red Wings' 4-3 win in the alumni game at Exhibition Stadium on Saturday. "I've always been good at second effort, and that's really how the save was made." 

Palmateer isn't wrong. His career was filled with similar acrobatic saves. But we're not going to let him get away with thinking it wasn't all that special on this day and at his age. Players on both sides were still gushing about the save after the game. They should for a long time. 

"Highlight of the game," Red Wings alumni forward and current Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said. "I thought if we were giving out a car I'd give it to Mike Palmateer. Great stop and then dramatic exit. I loved it." 

Video: Centennial Alumni: Palmateer turns back the clock

It was pure Palmateer, from the theatrics to the injury that resulted, the injury that forced him to leave the game for good before the ensuing faceoff less than four minutes into the first period. 

Palmateer, who was known as much for his saves as he was his injuries during his career, said he wrenched his back diving back with his glove hand stretched out to stop Holmstrom. He needed assistance standing up straight before he could loosen his back up again. 

"The save was unbelievable," Maple Leafs Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald said, "but as soon as he made the save and I saw him put his head back down on the ice, I knew he had pulled something."

Everyone, including Palmateer, knew it too. The thing is, in that moment, Palmateer didn't care about his body, he cared about the save. 

"That competitive spirit never leaves you, and the fact that he saves the penalty shot, pretty cool," McDonald said. 

As soon as Palmateer made the save, every player on the respective benches stood up.

"They were all pumped about the save," Toronto alumni goalie Felix Potvin said. "It was fun to see that. It set the tone for the whole afternoon." 

The players on the ice came over to Palmateer, even as he was struggling to stand up, and gave him a stick tap on the pads or a glove wash on top of his head. 

"How old is he?" Holmstrom asked rhetorically. "What a good job. Impressive." 

Added Maple Leafs alumni goalie Curtis Joseph: "It was unreal. It was vintage Mike Palmateer. We all played him as a road hockey goalie. Man, Tomas Holmstrom, he's not retired very long and he made a great move. It was great to see." 

It might be the last save Palmateer ever makes. Maybe it should be. 

"If he doesn't put his pads on again, that's a nice save for people to remember," Toronto alumni forward Gary Roberts said. 

Palmateer doesn't play anymore anyway. The last time he suited up was at the 2014 Winter Classic alumni game at Comerica Park, where he made some similar crazy saves, just none on a penalty shot. Prior to that, he hadn't skated in 17 years. 

"My legs are too bad, so I can't afford to," Palmateer said. "I don't want to hurt myself, but for an opportunity to come out and put the pads on one more time, you just have to do it." 

Palmateer had to dig out his equipment bag in his basement, the same vintage equipment bag complete with the skates, pads, chest protector, glove, blocker and even jock strap that he wore when he played in the NHL. His mask for the alumni game was new, but even that was made to look like his old mask with the same face mold. 

Palmateer said if Holmstrom went high with his shot and hit him in the mask, he likely would have been knocked out. 

"We're all in awe of his equipment," Toronto alum Doug Gilmour said. "Let's be honest, you haven't seen that stuff in a long time." 

Palmateer strapped it all on and skated for five minutes with the Maple Leafs alumni at Maple Leaf Gardens on Friday. His plan was to play only a few minutes Saturday, mainly because he had 60 family members in the crowd who wanted to see him play one more time. 

He also planned to leave the game on his own accord, not because of an injury. That didn't work out. 

"On the bright side, I had no excuse," Palmateer said. "I was already hurt. I couldn't stand up. The timing was great." 

The save was better. 

"Amazing," Detroit alumni goalie Chris Osgood said. "Unfathomable."

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