Sports

Ottawa Senators alumni visits Eganville

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

BONNECHERE VALLEY – While the snow and wind were ferocious outside, the Ottawa Senators Alumni did not disappoint their fans putting on a display of hockey excellence inside the Eganville Arena last Sunday night.

The alumni squad were in town to face the Eganville All-Stars, a team comprised of former members of the Old Eagles Hockey Club. The game, marking the Senators' first Eganville appearance in nearly four years, was a fundraiser for the Eganville Skating Club as well as a launch for Bonnechere Valley's Canada 150th celebrations.

After a ceremonial puck drop, the game got underway with the alumni starting out a little slow as the All-Stars put up a stingy defensive screen. The impasse was broken by veteran Senators winger Brad Smyth, who formerly played with Los Angeles, Flordia, Nashville and the New York Rangers. The All-Stars came to ties thing with a goal from Kevin McGrath. Smyth, whose career spanned from 1995 to 2003 including spells in Finland, Germany and the American Hockey League, fully endorsed the alumni program and how it connects the players with the community.

“It's goes right down to the grassroots and the foundation of the sport,” said Smyth. “It's great to visit the rural areas and see how much passion there is for hockey.”

Laurie Boschman, the first captain of the modern Senators franchise, said he was thrilled to be back in the area. A man who is no stranger to the Upper Ottawa Valley after having recently appeared with the NHL alumni in Petawawa over the Christmas holidays, Boschman said it is always an honour to come back to smaller arenas where many of the alumni ultimately started their careers.

“We all started in small communities so it's great to see the support we have here,” said the former captain who also played with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets and New Jersey Devils.

Formed in 1992, the Ottawa Senators Alumni maintains a busy schedule throughout the winter raising funds for minor hockey, community and charity groups across the region through their participation in charity hockey games and organizing events such as their annual golf tournament, hockey tournament and “Hope and Heroes” gala dinner.

“Our Sens almuni is fairly active,” added Boschman. “It's nice to come to these communities, raise some funds and raise the profile of what they are doing. It's very rewarding.”

This is the first alumni year for Pascal Leclaire, who was selected eighth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft and traded to the Senators in 2009. He played 173 games in the NHL posting a 61-76 record. In this game, however, he played defence joking that he lost his starting spot to Aaron Robinson, the director of fan and community development for the Senators. Leclaire conceded he misses the game.

“You miss the friendship and the guys around the locker room,” said Leclaire, who now lives in Montreal and is raising a family.

Leclaire has been following the team especially his successor in goal, Craig Anderson. This has been a tough season for Anderson, whose wife, Nicholle, has been battling a rare form of head and neck cancer. Last Saturday, the Senators No. 1 goaltender -- seeing his first action in 10 weeks – came back to post a 33-save shutout as Ottawa defeated New York Islanders 3-0.

“It's amazing what Craig Anderson has been able to do considering the difficult time he has had with his family,” said Leclaire. “It's very inspiring and it's a treat to watch him play.”

Rounding out the line-up for the alumni were former Sens star Saun Van Allen, former Ottawa 67s player Kevin Kemp, NCAA star Bryan Richardson, former Colorado Rockies star Larry Skinner,

The line-up for the Eganville All-Stars included Terry Schueneman, Chris Hinsperger, Pat Donohue, Doug Bishop, Kevin McGrath, Joe McGrath, Ray McGrath, Ronnie Felhaber, Patty Donohue, Mike Fitz, Reg Bissonette, Ryan Hoelke, Adam Bernard, Wally Halko, Bob Keefe, Tom White and Liam White.

SChase@postmedia.com