Tracking the Storm

A Game Like No Other

Monday, 04.2.2012 / 1:28 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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A Game Like No Other


If this was any other game, we’d talk about how Team White was able to fend off a late surge by Team Red to win 9-6.

Michael Smith
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But this game was like no other.

On Sunday, the Carolina Hurricanes hosted the inaugural Alumni Fantasy Game. The event gave 30 paying players the dream of skating alongside some of the organization’s legendary players and provided the nearly 3,000 fans in attendance an entertaining, friendly match.

“To have guys living in the community willing to come out and do this is a good sign for us to start building the alumni and doing things with guys that are around, and we all do it for a great cause,” said Ron Francis, a member of Team Red, who had at least two assists (unofficially). “I don’t think anybody expected 3,000 people to show up and watch this game, and it was certainly a lot of fun for all of us and the people involved. Hopefully we can get this bigger and better going forward.”

In what will likely become an annual fundraiser event for the Foundation, the inaugural game brought in $50,134 ($11,535 in donations at door), all of which will be given back to the community through grants to various deserving non-profits.

“I think it was everything you could ever ask for, and then some,” said Tripp Tracy, the winning goaltender for Team White. “It was a day that surpassed expectation of what you could hope for.”

A Special Day

When the teams emerged from the locker room for warm-ups, there were already hundreds – if not over 1,000 – people in the stands. By puck-drop at 3 p.m., the East side was full and the corners of the lower bowl were being opened.

“I was stunned at the size of the crowd,” said Philip Poetzinger, goaltender for Team Red. “That was fun, and I hope they felt like they had a good show.”

And that was just the beginning.

There were goals – seven from Team White to Red’s lone one after 40 minutes – penalty shots and even gag pucks. It was April Fool’s Day after all.

“You could see the expression on some of their faces when they did score,” said Shane Willis, a member of Team Red. “The horn was going off and the fans going crazy.”

“You can just see the difference when one of those guys scores a goal, just how their face lights up compared to somebody who’s played in the NHL that scores a goal,” Francis said. “The guy on our team that scored a goal in the third period kept the puck after he scored and wouldn’t let the referee have it back. I think that tells you all you need to know. It’s pretty important for them.”

After the game, jerseys were being passed around the locker room for autographs – from everyone, not just the Hurricanes alumni. Outside, fans waited for players’ cars, again both those of alumni and the paying players. Ted Enarson tweeted that it was the first time he had been asked for an autograph.

“It was a great experience,” Poetzinger said. “It’s hard to put into words being able to do something you always wanted or dreamed to do.”

The Game

Willis – who helped to organize the event as the youth and amateur hockey coordinator for the Hurricanes – and Jesse Boulerice each had hat tricks. Willis smoked a slap shot past goaltender Tracy’s glove in the third period that began the Team Red comeback.

“I figured I’d try and do it in the last six minutes when his microphone was turned on, and if I didn’t score, I’d at least try to hit him in the head at least one time,” Willis said. “The Red team really turned it on. I think our conditioning kicked in for us. It was a great time. The guys enjoyed it.”

Henry Staal, father of Hurricanes’ captain Eric Staal, scored a third-period goal and proceeded to celebrate by jumping into the glass, reminiscent of his son. Eric, watching from the West side of the arena, was grinning ear-to-ear.

Late in the third period, Team Red pulled their goaltender and sent not one extra skater off the bench but their whole team. They ended up scoring a goal.

“We talked about it and someone said, ‘Why don’t we all go?’ So we said, ‘Well, we’ll try it one time.’ It worked, so we tried it a second time,” Willis said. “I don’t know if the NHL ever passed that rule.”

When the horn sounded, Team White held onto their lead, winning 9-6. That bit of information will likely get lost in time.

“The result of the hockey game is about number 99,000 on the totem pole of importance,” Tracy said.

A “Bucket List Thing”

Experiencing what it would be like to play professional hockey isn’t something that most hockey players can say they have done. The 30 that played on Sunday are in unique company.

“What a wonderful group of guys, and the Hurricanes that came out to play, really a nice thing,” Poetzinger said.

Clearly, this wasn’t just an ordinary game.

Just ask any one of the 30 players who got to bump shoulders in the locker room with guys who have played 1,000 NHL games; who, after getting their name announced, got to skate onto a professional ice surface under a spotlight with music blaring and fans cheering; who got to be interviewed by John Forslund on camera during warm-ups and speak with the media after the game; who got to put the puck in the net after receiving a pass from someone with 1,249 NHL assists; who left the arena with memories that will last a lifetime. They’ll tell you: it was a game – and experience – like no other.

“Since I ever played goal, you always wonder what it’s like to have somebody who’s played the game for real take shots on you,” Poetzinger said. “I’ll take that away. That’s a tick-mark in the bucket list.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72