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Habs alumni put on a show
Past Canadiens players defeat police and firefighters 10-4 while raising money for charity in annual Memorial Hockey Challenge

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 29, 2014

They say the third time's a charm, and that was certainly the case for Yellowknife's Bernie Bennett as a team of Montreal Canadiens alumni players took on the local fire department and RCMP in a special edition of the city's Memorial Hockey Challenge on Saturday night.

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Bernie Bennett smiles on the bench with five-time Stanley Cup champion and Montreal Canadiens alumni team coach Guy Lafleur. Bennett credited Lafleur with giving him advice on how to score after he fired a puck past opposing goalie Ivan Gloden on his third penalty shot of the game. - Cody Punter/NNSL photo

The 52 year-old Bennett said he has been a fan of the Canadiens since he was five years old and only learned how to skate this year.

On Saturday night, he found himself playing for his childhood hero and coach of the alumni team, Guy Lafleur, after winning a spot on the team through a charity auction.

Having already missed on a deke and firing another attempt wide of the net, Bennett returned to centre ice halfway through the second period as he prepared to take his third penalty shot of the game.

Bennett bore down on goalie Ivan Gloden and roofed the puck over his glove hand and into the top corner, sending the crowd into a frenzy as his all-star teammates rushed over to celebrate with him on the ice.

"It was a great move. He got everybody by surprise I think," said Lafleur. "I was so happy for him."

"It was reminding us of lots of memories for us when we were growing up and playing hockey ... except we were five years old," he added jokingly.

Although Lafleur wasn't playing in the game, Bennett said the five-time Stanley Cup champion deserved an assist on the goal for encouraging him to shoot rather than deke.

"I just shot it as hard as I could and I'm lucky it went in," said Bennett. "It went as good as I could have dreamed of and scoring a goal was just the cherry on top."

Hometown defenceman Dominique Cousineau would also score for the visitors, as the Canadiens alumni would go on to win the game 10-4.

Even though the home team lost, the high-scoring game kept fans entertained as former NHLers such as Pierre Dagenais, Dan Daoust, Jocelyn Lemieux, Gibert Delorme and Steve Shutt showed off their smooth skating and soft hands.

"We're all type-A personalities in here - we're all competitive - but I've never seen a group of guys so happy to lose," said a smiling Const. Shaun Brown, who scored two of the RCMP/Firefighter's four goals.

One of those goals came on a penalty shot. To score, Brown danced around a sprawling Richard Sevigny, who rushed out of his net to try and strip the puck off him, before he buried it in the back of the net.

"My brother warned me that he liked to come out and stack the pads," said Brown.

On top of being a huge hockey fan, Brown has also been the coach of a local team, the Novice Ramblers, for the past four years.

As fortunate as he was to get the chance to play against former NHLers, he said the game was just as much about inspiring future generations of hockey players as it was about those playing in the game.

During the first intermission, an army of local Timbits players swarmed the ice in a brief game against the alumni.

During the five minute scrimmage, alumni players Delorme and Lemieux went out of their way to engage with the toddlers, much to the delight of the fans.

"It was just a lot of fun and so great, especially for the kids," said Brown.

Yellowknife RCMP detachment commander Insp. Frank Gallagher also scored a goal for the RCMP/Firefighter squad, streaking down the right wing and firing a low, hard shot through the legs of a defender and past Sevigny.

"It was a real honour to be fortunate enough to put one by him," said Gallagher.

However, for Gallagher, the most important part of the game was getting the chance to honour Yellowknife firefighters Lt. Cyril Fyfe and Kevin Olson who were killed while fighting a fire on March 17, 2005.

The memorial tournament was founded in 2007 as a way to remember the men and as a way to raise money for charity.

"We want to keep their memory alive," said Gallagher. "This was for them."

This year, proceeds from the game, as well as from the 50/50 draw and puck toss contest, will go to the Randy McBride Hockey Project Fund and Helmets for Hardy.

"I was really happy to come here. It's a great hockey town and it's a good cause too, all the money we're getting. It's nice to be able to do that," said Lafleur.

Tournament organizers did not know how much money was raised by press time.

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