By Rori Bennett – Junior Reporter
Wallaceburg Memorial Arena was packed with hundreds of Leafs fans and Wallaceburg hockey fans on Saturday, March 7 for a charity game between the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni and a team of Wallaceburg Lakers Alumni.
The Wallaceburg Minor Hockey Association partnered with the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni Association to host the game. All proceeds raised from the game went to support Wallaceburg Minor Hockey and offset the costs associated with minor hockey in Wallaceburg.
Lou Franceschetti, a member of the the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni, said it is an honour for the Leafs Alumni to give back.
“For us as Toronto Maple Leaf Alumni, we love going around to all of these small little towns and playing in front of the fans, because we know that when we played, the fans were always behind us, one hundred per cent,” Franceschetti told the Sydenham Current.
“And for us, it’s almost a sense that we are paying back their loyalty, and their enthusiasm, for staying behind us and standing behind us when we played.”
The lineup for the Leafs Alumni, included: Franceschetti, Wendel Clark, Rick Vaive, Gary Leeman, Steve Thomas, Al Iafrate, Rick Natress, Matt Martin, Christian Hanson, Mark Laforest, Dave Reid, Dimitri Mironov, Nik Antropov and Chatham-Kent native, Todd Warriner.
Honorary Leafs players for the day were Matt Wilbur and Charlie Kridiotis.
Coaching the Leafs lineup was Pat Ribble and honorary assistant coach, Tom Cogghe.
“It’s been so long since I played here that I had to come back,” Tom Regimbald, who played with the Wallaceburg Lakers Alumni Team, told the Sydenham Current.
“For me, it wasn’t about playing against the Leafs, it was about coming back… back to this arena. I started playing in ’85, and I played all the way to the Junior ‘C’ Lakers.”
The Wallaceburg Lakers Alumni Team, included: Regimbald, Steve Olah, Lisa Coats, Adrian Kloet, Paul Vanderzwart, Steve Kearns, Cezar Soares, Nathan Foulon, Ron Barnes, Shane Fraleigh, Mason Kraayenbrink, Mike Tinning, Jason Wadsworth, Chris Young, Jason Jackson, Jeff Fox and Curt Veenstra.
Coaching the Wallaceburg lineup was Brad Gauthier, Lee Salisbury and Tasha Hill, accompanied by trainer Justin McNeil.
“I had three and a half years with the Lakers, I played my whole minor career in Wallaceburg,” said Mike Tinning, who played on the Lakers Alumni Team.
“I decided to come back and play for this game because I’ve coached for about seven years and retired last year. I haven’t played in about 20 years and my son’s done playing this year. I just thought, what a great way to go out, you know. What a great way to retire and finish up my hockey career with a great experience like this.”
Carlton the Bear, the Leafs mascot, was also at the game posing for photos with fans.
Between the first and second period, Carlton raced Johnny Sherwood around the ice. Also, Mike Burm, Bill Chafe and Tyler Kloet shot from centre ice for a chance to win an autographed Wendel Clark hockey stick.
At the conclusion of the game, it was the Leafs Alumni beating the Lakers Alumni by a score of 16-7.
The three stars of the game were Tinning, Antropov and Kridiotis.
Following the game, Melisa DeKort from Wallaceburg’s McDonald’s restaurant sponsored a free family skate for all of those in attendance at the game.
The final fundraising total has yet to be announced.
Here are some photos from showdown: