Hockey Night In Orillia

By John Swartz

Rotary Place was completely sold out Friday (700 seats, people packed 4 deep around the boards and in viewing galleries on the second floor, meaning the crowd was over 1,000) to see area OPP officers and personnel face former NHL players in a Special Olympics fundraising hockey game.

Ethan Moreau

The NHLers play in many communities under the NHL Alumni Tour banner. Home town player Ethan Moreau thought the game and the turnout was great and he scored the first two goals.

“I was here last year. I just started playing with these guys last year. This is our best place we play. It’s sold out, people are enthusiastic. Most places are close to sold out, we can tell when it’s sold out, sold out.  It was really cool to have the best venue somewhere I lived and my parents still live here,” said Moreau.

Jay Wells

Jay Wells, who had an 18 year career with Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Buffalo, New York, St. Louis and Tampa Bay, has been with the cicuit for a few years.

“These games have been going on for about 25 years; I’ve only been about 4 or 5 probably,” said Wells. He got back on the ice almost by accident.

“It just so happened they were in my town one day and I hooked up with them and played a game and just enjoyed it so much I figured I’d join it.”

He doesn’t play every game of the schedule.

“There’s a core of guys that always play, but when we go to a different town like Sudbury, along ways away, we bring in the kids in,” so he’ll only play 10 of the 15 game schedule.

They only played two periods and the intermission featured a game of shinny with Orillia Minor Hockey Association’s novice atom team on the ice, supervised by Mike Krushelnyski and Bryan Muir (Oilers, Devils, Blackhawks, Lightning, Avalanche, Kings and Capitals).

Special Olympian Stephen Graham

After the Zamboni was back in its room, Special Olympian Stephen Graham took a few breezy turns around the rink.

Carlea Wilkie-Ellis

Special Olympians Carlea Wilkie-Ellis and Taylor Shaw then had a chance to show off their figure skating routines.

Taylor Shaw

Team Canada sledge hockey players Rod Crane and James Dunn demonstrated their skills. When the NHL and OPP teams returned it was time to pit puck handling and scoring skills  between Crane, Dunn and a few of the others. Goalie, Mark Laforest (Detroit, Philadelphia, Leafs) was beaten by Crane and Dunn a few times.

Rod Crane and James Dunn

OPP Staff Sgt. Coyer Yateman

OPP Staff Sgt. Coyer Yateman, had no trouble finding players to fill the OPP bench.

“It’s easy. The guys want to give back to the community and this is all for Special Olympics and the money stays right here in Orillia.” Yateman said.

Funds raised are split between Special Olympics Ontario and Special Olympics Orillia.

“Special Olympics Orillia gets 300 tickets to sell and we sell our tickets for $10 and then we have donations for programs and then we have the 50/50. All that money stays in Orillia,” said Linda Wilkie-Ellis.

Linda Wilkie-Ellis

“We’re hoping to raise around $4,000 tonight for Special Olympics Orillia, but Special Olympics Ontario will also raise funds and I have no idea what they raise.”

Children were having a great time hanging out near the NHL bench, most of them anxious to get a souvenir, like a hockey stick, pestering the players to give them up – with 10 minutes left in the game. Lucas Linch was minding the door for the NHL players coming off the ice and Max Weaver was chosen to drop the first puck.

After the game, players already mentioned and team mates Rick Vaive, Chris Kontos, Al Iafrate, Nik Antropov, and Dave McLlwain, and Ken Belanger – all former Maple Leafs and Brent Gretzky (Tampa Bay) , met at Era 67 to eat and meet fans.

Post-game dinner at Era 67.

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(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Mark Napier on the point at Friday night’s NHL Alumni Tour game against the OPP Law Enforcement All Stars


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