This is the complete video of the Hartford Whalers Alumni vs. Boston Bruins Alumni with special guests the "Hanson Brothers"
Hall of Fame defensemen Brian Leetch, a Cheshire native, and Brad Park headline the Bruins legends team. Other commitments are Enfield native Craig Janney, former captain Rick Middleton, Reggie Lemelin, Ken Hodge, Don Marcotte, Rick Smith, Bob Sweeney, Lyndon Byers, Cleon Daskalakis, Jay Miller, Bob Miller (no relation) and Ken “The Rat” Linseman, a member of the Whalers for a few moments as he passed through in a multi-player trade with Philadelphia and Edmonton that included Mark Howe leaving Hartford for the Flyers. Derek Sanderson and Gary Doak will coach the Bruins team.
Commitments for the Whalers team are WHA Hall of Famer Andre Lacroix, John McKenzie, whose No. 19 is retired in the XL Center rafters, Blaine Stoughton, Pat Verbeek, John Anderson, Garry Swain, Bob Crawford, Chris Kotsopoulos, Jim Dorey, Jordy Douglas, Ray Neufeld, Gordie Roberts, Darren Turcotte, Nelson Emerson, Mark Janssens, Bill Bennett, Jeff Brubaker, Fred O’Donnell, Terry Yake, Scott Daniels, Ed Hospodar, Yvon Corriveau and the Babych brothers, Dave and Wayne. Norm Barnes and former captain Russ Anderson will be among the coaches.
By Bruce Berlet
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Hall of Famer Brian Leetch had just one regret.
"It went too fast," the Cheshire native said.
Just one regret, too, for Enfield native Craig Janney, playing with Leetch for only the second time since the 1988 Winter Olympics.
"I had Brian for the winner at the end, and I screwed up," Janney said with a smile. "I had him creeping in (off the point). It would have been a good Connecticut moment if I could have hit him with pass, but I'm a little rusty. I hit the side of the net with the darn thing."
Instead, the fun-filled, 50-minute exhibition appropriately ended in a 4-4 tie between the Leetch/Janney Boston Bruins legends and Hartford Whalers legends in the opener of the Whale Bowl, the featured attraction of the historic "Harvest-Properties.com Whalers Hockey Fest 2011" at Rentstchler Field on Saturday.
Yvon Corriveau and Pat Verbeek gave the Whalers a 2-0 lead before Janney got the Bruins on the board. Ray Neufeld restored the Whalers' two-goal lead, but Kenny Linseman scored twice and actor Cameron Bancroft gave the Bruins a 4-3 lead before Corriveau scored his second goal with 3:30 left. Corriveau could have won it on a penalty shot with 1:56 to go, but Cleon Daskalatis made a sprawling save to preserve the desired result.
For this was a day of stories and memories, mic'd-up referee Paul Stewart offering running commentary while telling jokes, talking to the players and "fighting" with the comical Hanson Brothers trio of "Slap Shot" fame who played in the second half.
Leetch and Hanson Brothers were the last players to exit the ice before the Connecticut Whale and Providence Bruins played the second outdoor game in the AHL's 75-year history.
Did Leetch want to soak up as much of a rare charity appearance as he could?
"No, I was taking pictures with a lot of the people who were working out there and signing some autographs," Leetch said.
Not surprising for arguably the best American hockey player in history. He was a main attraction, received a standing ovation when introduced before starting on defense alongside fellow Hall of Famer Brad Park.
"I feel a connection to Connecticut and so many experiences, so it was nice to get such a reception," Leetch said. "When you go from six to 16 (in hockey), there are a lot of changes. Each year seems like an eternal at that time, so I always feel Connecticut is where I grew up.
"It was so much fun, and I kept looking up and saying, 'I can't believe that's all the time that's left.' It was great coming to Connecticut at an outdoor rink with guys you looked up to and played with and against as you were growing up."
What about that final score?
"I didn't know how it was going to work, but I know all the Bruins wanted to win because they were yelling at the end," Leetch said with a laugh. "And the Hartford guys were at home, so you know they wanted to win, so it was good at Cleon made that save at the end."
Leetch said it was only his fourth skating appearance in 14 months. He played in the NHL Winter Classic Legends Game at Fenway Park in Boston at the start of 2010, played with Janney in the Boston College alumni game a month ago and participated in Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas last week.
"Other than that, I haven't done anything other than skate with my friends here and there," Leetch said. "This is a rare occasion, but as soon as you get asked to one of these outdoor things, you say yes."
Leetch had played in a few charity events with celebrities but never outdoors, so he said he had a little trouble holding onto his light stick in winds gusting to 30 mph. But all was forgotten when the Hanson Brothers showed up in the locker room at intermission.
"When they were sitting there in their gear, everyone had big grins on their faces," Leetch said with a wide grin. "It was awesome."
Leetch said it took a while to figure out which number he and Park would wear. Park had No. 2 with the New York Rangers before being traded to the Bruins, where he took No. 22. When Leetch joined the Rangers after being the ninth overall pick in the 1986 NHL draft, he wore No. 2 and then went to No. 22 when dealt to the Bruins.
"Park has been good to me for a lot of years," Park said, "but he was saying, 'You're taking my numbers wherever you go.' When (Bruins captain) Rick Middleton called and asked what number I wanted, I said, 'What's Brad doesn't want is the one I'm going to take.' He told Brad, and he said, 'No, he's wearing the same number as I am.' So I thought that was pretty cool. He's been a very nice guy to me since I just started in the league."
The 42-year-old Leetch, who retired in 1986 after his one season with the Bruins, said thoughts of a comeback, especially to run the Rangers' suspect power play, usually vanish quickly.
"I always say I've been out just long enough to actually think I can come back and play," Leetch said with a smile. "You forget how hard it is and how good everybody is. If I could still do, I'd be out there."
Leetch, who had 247 goals and 781 assists in 1,205 NHL games, grew up playing outdoors a quarter-mile from his home in Cheshire. He now coaches 10-year-old son Jack's squirts hockey team and does some TV work with NESN and MSG but didn't know if he would coach adults.
"I don't know what's in the future, but I certainly like being involved a little bit in TV," Leetch said. "I'd like to stay involved, but I also enjoy being home with my kids. Coaching is more time than playing. You have to be there before the players and after the players and still doing all the same traveling, so you have to be ready for it if you're going to do it."
After a reception Saturday night, Leetch is scheduled to fly to Deerfield Beach, Fla., on Sunday night to rejoin his wife and children, who are on vacation from school in Boston this week.
Meanwhile, Janney will be returning to Phoenix, Ariz., where he has lived since he retired in 1999.
But Janney had more memories than any of the 44 players, having his No. 15 unexpectedly retired before he dropped the ceremonial first puck before his alma mater, Enfield High School, played Northwest Catholic-West Hartford on Friday in the opener of a doubleheader.
"It was really neat and a total surprise," Janney said. "I had no clue it was going to happen, but it was a really nice gesture. And someone said my number hadn't been worn since I left school."
Janney played three years at Enfield High before attending Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass. He then played two years at Boston College before joining the United States national team program and competing on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that finished seventh in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Janney was the Boston Bruins' first-round pick (13th overall) in 1986 after being passed over by his favorite team, the Whalers, who chose Boston University wing Scott Young with the 11th pick. Two selections earlier, the Rangers had selected Leetch.
"I wanted to be a Whaler bad, but it worked out for everyone," said Janney, who played in the 1991 Canada Cup for Team USA with Leetch and lost in the finals to unbeaten Team Canada, led by Wayne Gretzky. "Brian went on to a tremendous career in New York, Scottie Young had an unbelievable career, and I had a lot of fun in Boston, so it worked out well."
Janney had 188 goals and 563 assists in 760 NHL games with the Bruins, St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders before ending a 12-year pro career in 1999 because blood clots had formed throughout his body. The Enfield Raiders could have used some of Janney's patented passes Friday as they lost 2-0 despite a 24-11 shot advantage. Sophomore Jeff Greenwood, a first-year high school player, scored both goals, and brother Matt Greenwood made 24 saves for the Indians (8-7-2).
Janney scored Saturday but was happier about being around his former teammates.
"As cliché as it may be, what you miss about the game is the camaraderie in the locker room and nights like (Friday) night going to the banquet," Janney said. "Those are the things you miss, and you love when you get back together like this."
Janney, who skated for only the third time in two years, joked Leetch "had one up on all of us after a training camp for a week," alluding to him participating in Gretzky's Fantasy Camp.
The final score?
"Alumni games are always good when they end in a tie," Janney said with a smile. "Everyone goes home happy and less sore."