A bit of old-school hockey
Tuesday, Feb 14, 2017 03:30 pm
For the first time in over 30 years, the St. Paul Jr. B Canadiens team from 1986 gathered together under one roof. The good ol' boys met up in Clancy Richards Arena on Saturday night to play a reunion game against the Rockets, a local beer league team.
Pat Lamoureux, who now lives in Sherwood Park, explained the nostalgia and thrill of seeing all his teammates together again.
“It's been amazing, honestly. Great to reminisce, and to come back to the old arena where we used to play. Things haven't changed that much, really, which is incredible. Reliving some of these old memories was just priceless.”
The ‘86 Canadiens and the Rockets hit the ice at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. And whether it was age, lack of practice, or some combination of both, the Canadiens quickly realized that the Rockets were out of their league, literally.
“Oh, God, we had no chance against these guys,” joked Luc Tremblay. “I mean, it would have been nice to win, but that wasn't really the point, was it? We just wanted to get back together again and have a good time.”
The game consisted of two 20-minute periods. The Rockets outscored the ‘86 Canadiens 8-3, with the Canadiens’ goals coming courtesy of Lamoureux, Delwin Stamp, and Dwayne Kaibashowski.
“Our transition game was a bit off,” said another Canadiens’ player, Rick Austin. “What transition game?” joked Lamoureux, whose comment was met with a beer-soaked round of laughter after the game.
The old-school game felt authentic in many regards. An era-appropriate playlist of tunes by ZZ Top, Journey, Billy Idol, and Van Halen hit the ears of players and the audience during stoppages in play, and even outdated rules like the two-line pass offside call, which the NHL and most other leagues abolished in 2005, were in full effect.
Goalie Duane Wolanuk's style of play was also considerably retro. There was no flashing of the leather or butterfly positions, just some classic Ron Hextall-style kick and stick saves.
Comparisons have been drawn between the ‘86 Canadiens and the St. Paul team this season. Both teams have seen tremendous success and saw long, undefeated runs during their respective seasons. A consensus couldn't be reached in the locker room on Saturday evening on exactly how long the ‘86 Canadiens’ longest winning streak was, but most players agreed it fell somewhere between 18 and 21 games.
Dale Finnerty, who coached the Canadiens in 1986, was also present at the game, has retired and now lives in Lethbridge. His players, though 30 years since they played with him, still speak of their coach with admiration.
“I think one of my best memories from those years was working with Coach Finnerty,” said Austin. “What a tremendous guy. I mean, he really took a group of people from all over, with diverse backgrounds, and helped us all click together. He made me proud of what we did.”
Finnerty speaks of his team with the same level of respect.
“They were always a hard-working bunch of kids who never wanted to give up,” Finnerty said. “Coaching them was a dream, because they didn't really need that much direction. They were smart. They knew how to play and what to do. I just had to be there to iron out the wrinkles every now and again.”
Though time and distance separate the players and staff of the 1986 St. Paul Jr. B Canadiens, their time together on Saturday night proved one thing for them.
“Hockey is a deep part of the culture of Canada," Lamoureux said. “We relate to it, we unite through it, and we fall by it. And when you really live it, like I did with the men in this room, those memories aren't things that just sit idly by. You relive them, you cherish them, and being able to be back with all these guys tonight is, really, a treasure.”