NEWARK, USA – For the most part professional hockey players live in mansions, free of worry about not having a roof over their heads. Still they never forget those who become homeless through tragic circumstances.
Such was the case recently when North American and Russian hockey legends came together to raise $50,000 in a charity game for the victims of Hurricane Sandy at the Prudential Centre in Newark, New Jersey.
Each of the players on the North American team wore a jersey with the name of a town, affected by the hurricane, printed on the back.
Harking to history the Russians, normally dressed in red and white, used blue and white throwback jerseys, replicas of the ones in which the former Soviet Union won its first World Championship 59 years ago in Stockholm. The area including Newark and New York City includes a large number of Russian immigrants.
Former New Jersey Devils defenceman Ken Daneyko was a key figure in organizing the game, along with Devils alumni Grant Marshall, Bruce Driver, Jim Dowd and Chris Terreri.
Dowd, who scored a goal, is a native of Brick, New Jersey, and lives very close to the area that was hit by the hurricane. Both Dowd and Marshall have friends who lost homes in the hurricane.
Daneyko, who played 20 seasons for New Jersey, made the phone calls to assemble the North American team. Daneyko’s jersey bore the name of the town of Lavallete on the back. The town is situated on the Barnegat Peninsula, a long, narrow barrier that separates Barnegat Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Russians won the game 7-6, although the North Americans gave them a run for the money bouncing back from a 6-2 deficit.
Brendan Shanahan, who now serves as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, was playing in his first game since retiring at the end of 2008-09 season.
Andrei Kovalenko, now head of the KHL Players Association, scored three goals for the Russians, Valeri Kamensky, Vladimir Malakhov, Viktor Gordyuk and Rustem Kamaletdinov also connected.
Shanahan led the North American team with a pair of goals. Billy Guerin, Brian Leetch, Marshall and Dowd had a goal apiece.
Devils owner Mike Vanderbeek donated the use of the arena and about 4,000 fans attended. Instead of the usual commercial advertising on the rink boards, names of the towns affected and their Garden State Parkway exit numbers appeared.
To boost funds, organizers auctioned off the jerseys and sticks of retired players Stephane Richer, Claude Lemieux and Brian Leetch, which went for $3,000, $2,100 and $2,000, respectively.
Former NHL goalie and Devils TV colour commentator Chico Resch, who won a Stanley Cup with the New York Islanders in 1980, served as an assistant coach for North America.
“Sports did the job it was intended to do when times are tough,” he said. “Sports are an escape from reality. This game brought fans the excitement and joy of seeing these oldtimers skating around like they could still play.
“Our guys really wanted to win. They were sweating profusely and their hearts must have been pounding at 180 beats per minute.”
Resch said Daneyko was the funniest guy on the bench during the game. Daneyko made a special request to play with former Ranger star Leetch, who had been his foe for many years.
Rather than sending offenders to the penalty box for two minutes, guest referee Kerry Fraser awarded penalty shots when violations occurred. Fraser was an NHL referee for 30 seasons before retiring in 2010.
The Russians were successful on three of their free shots, while the North Americans failed to score and that virtually decided to the outcome.
The youngest player on the ice was 39-year-old centre Sergei Brylin, who was born in Russia, but played for North America in this match. Brylin spent more than a decade with the Devils.
Two children dressed in traditional Russian costumes sang the national anthem in Russian. Following the game, fans attended an autograph signing with the players.
Alexei Yashin was in a jovial mood after the Russian women’s national team, for which he serves as general manager, won a bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Ottawa earlier this month.
Fans paid $100 each for tickets, which included a pass to a VIP reception following the game. The rest of the seats were priced between $20 and $40.
Daneyko is a workhorse and has been involved in a host of charities. He has played in charity golf tournaments, donned an apron as a celebrity chef in a cooking competition against other sports stars and participated in the Women’s Sports Foundation’s annual walk to support the Goodwill Rescue Mission in Newark.
Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in the United States.
It came ashore near Atlantic City on 29th October 2012. More than 100 people lost their lives within a 65-mile radius of New York City, more than one-third as a result of drowning. Many more were left without a place to live.
In November of 2012, Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek also made the Prudential Centre available to the Newark East Side high school hockey team. East Side would have been unable to begin its practice season on schedule without the help because its traditional arena, the Ironbound Recreation Center, was without power following the hurricane.
A year earlier Vanderbeek had invited the Red Raiders to work out at the Devils practice arena after Hurricane Irene hit the state.
"We're very committed to this program," Vanderbeek told the Newark Star-Ledger. "It's also making sure for kids that there's something they can do with their idle time."
The charity game took place just two days before Devils Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk celebrated his 37th birthday.
KHL President Alexander Medvedev, who played in the game, said he hopes to have NHL clubs visiting Russia for exhibition games in September.
Medvedev said a pair of KHL games scheduled for Brooklyn in January were cancelled and played in Russia because the timing coincided with the end of the labour conflict in the NHL.
Phil Esposito, who led Team Canada to victory over the Soviet Union in the historic Summit Series in 1972, was head coach for North Americans with Rod Gilbert and Resch working as assistants. Sergei Makarov coached the Russians.
North American Legends: Sergei Brylin, Bob Carpenter, Ken Daneyko, Jim Dowd, Bruce Driver, Ron Duguay, Billy Guerin, Benoit Hogue, Mark LaForest, Brian Leetch, Claude Lemieux, Grant Marshall, Randy McKay, Brian Propp, Stephane Richer, Brendan Shanahan.
Russian Legends: Vyacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov, Valeri Kamensky, Darius Kasparaitis, Alexei Yashin, Maxim Mikhailovsky, Andrei Malkov, Vladimir Antipin, Rustem Kamaletdinov, Alexander Medvedev, Vitali Prokhorov, Yevgeni Chizhmin, Igor Boriskov, Andrei Kovalenko, Igor Varitski, Alexei Pogonin, Victor Gordyuk, Dmitri Teplyakov, Vladimir Malakhov, Vladimir Torzhkov, Alexander Yakushev.