National Hockey League legend Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams is sitting on a bench in dressing room No. 5 at the Twin Rinks in St. John’s.
Across from him is another NHL alumni, Kevin Maguire. The two had just finished a pair of games as a part of the Hockey Heroes Weekend May 16-18 in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and are holding court with just over a half-dozen fans.
For those unsure, the Hockey Heroes Weekend brought in 14 former NHL players ranging from Joe Nieuwendyk to Todd Warriner to play with 14 teams in a fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke, which culminated in Heart Heroes game on Sunday afternoon.
Williams and Maguire were trading stories of the life on the road, playing in the pros and just about any other question the fans want answered.
Elsewhere in the arena, other pros like Gary Roberts, Al Iafrate, Brian Propp, Gilbert Dionne, Brad May, Mike Krushelnyski, Gary Leeman, Rick Vaive, Dale Hawerchuk and Matthew Barnaby are doing similar things.
I had the honour of playing in the tournament, which was superbly organized with funds raised going to a great cause. It was the second time in a couple of months that I have had the privilege of playing with NHL alumni.
As I sat on a bench across from both Maguire and Williams, listening to them relay stories back-and-forth, it occurred to me what makes these events so popular.
I had always thought these things are about nostalgia, which they are, but there is something else which bring people back to play.
It is those stories. Every one wants to hear them.
Those who played were enthralled by that one night in junior, or the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.
They listen intently as the alumni give their thoughts on projected top-10 picks and current players.
Maybe these stories come in the dressing room in between games, on the bench or in the parking lot along with a couple of adult beverages.
It doesn’t matter really where they are heard, as long as they are.
These events tie people together.
They tie the pros with the players and vice versa. There is this connection established that goes beyond fans on the outside looking in.
They were brought into that lifestyle. They establish themselves in the NHL hierarchy.
There are bonds formed and connections established. As the fans return to their everyday lives, they will tell coworkers, parents, partners and children of the weekend they spent hanging out with the pros.
Undoubtedly, there are countless tales of setting up Rick Vaive up for a goal or “fighting” Brad May being told around water coolers in multiple offices.
And, it’s not just the fans who get a lot from the experience. The pros also bring something back with them.
They get to see old friends and teammates again, along with a slew of new experiences.
Watching them interact with the public, it is not hard to think they left this weekend with new friends and acquaintances.
They’ve got stories to share with on their next tour stops in Calgary, Moncton, etc.
You have to go to Newfoundland they’ll tell them. They have great people and its really well run.
They’ve made connections too. They’ve met people they won’t forget.
At the end, fans and alumni are one and the same.
Making these experiences all the more better is the fact they came with raising money for a worthy cause.
— Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.