Maple Leafs battle Bobcats

By Jamie Harkins

March 14, 2017 12:00 AM

NHL SKILL Toronto Maple Leafs alumni Dave McLlwain carries the puck past a Lloydminster Bobcats defender. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO

The Toronto Maple Leafs alumni team and a local Lloydminster Bobcats squad faced off in a light-hearted celebration of Canada’s favourite game at the Centennial Civic Centre on Saturday.
“We’re trying to make sure the other team has some fun with it and the crowd does as well,” said Leafs alumni and Hockey Hall of Fame member Joe Nieuwendyk.
“The ref (was) all miked up to provide a little entertainment, but the people are awesome. A lot of Leafs fans around these parts and Flames fans, so it’s just nice coming out and seeing everybody.”
The Leafs took the family-friendly contest 10-7, but the Bobcats team of local junior A players, coaches and hockey fans gave the boys from the Big Smoke all they could handle.
A bit of underhanded play by Leafs defenceman Dan Daoust included calling a timeout for an untied skate lace while the Bobcats raced in on a three-on-one in the second period,  and clearly paying the referee $150 to place a faceoff outside their zone in the final stanza may have been the difference.
“It was fun seeing all the NHLers and seeing how good they are,” said Bobcats’ defenceman Daniel Hilsendager.
“Their passing is unreal. The guys don’t even look and they can put it on someone’s tape and then they bang it in.”
Hilsendager said the focus is always to play his hardest when he gets on the ice, but that may have only come in spurts as he looked out to see legends of the game such Nieuwendyk, Rick Vaive, Rich Sutter and Laurie Boschman lining up against them.
“The ref was getting into it too,” he said.
He was “getting the fans into it, so that was cool.”
Nieuwendyk said the Leafs alumni usually just play games around Ontario, but decided to make a trip west this weekend playing a contest in Lethbridge on Friday before hitting the ice at the Centennial Civic Centre 24 hours later.
He said the crowds in both cities were great to them,  making the late winter trek well worth it.
“The weather is chilly, it’s hockey weather, but there are passionate hockey fans in a lot of these small towns,” said Nieuwendyk.
“Hometown Hockey is here this weekend too, so there is a lot going on,” he said.
“There is a good vibe around town.”

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