NHL celebrities lace up their skates for Windsor's hockey heritage fundraiser


Published on January 21, 2017

Members of the bantam Valley Wild, from left, Ava Rogers (Waterville), Rachel Baker (Kingston), Cassie Larder (Kingston), Hannah Rafuse (Chester Road), Amy Lloy (Windsor) and Zoey Rafuse (Scotch Village) were among the dozens of hockey players who had a chance to hang out with retired NHL great Joe DiPenta, who grew up playing hockey in Cole Harbour.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Boston Bruins great Ray Bourque was a fan favourite at the Long Pond Heritage Classic Jan. 21, 2017 in Windsor.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

In between scheduled tournament games, former NHLers, like Stéphane Richer, were more than approachable – often taking time out to play a little hockey with youngsters or sign autographs.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Retired Boston Bruins great Ray Bourque appeared right at home while playing hockey at Long Pond Jan. 21, 2017.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Andrew Dill, of the Long Pond Rebels, was hot on the heels of former Valley Maple Leafs player Brandon Parker, who was playing for the Tim Hortons team, during the Long Pond Heritage Classic Jan. 21.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

The Long Pond Rebels had a little help from Ray Bourque during the annual fundraising tournament at Long Pond.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Stanley Cup champion Joe DiPenta, of Anaheim Ducks fame, waits for a teammate to pass him the puck during a morning hockey game at Long Pond.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

A member of the Long Pond Rebels makes a quick pass to a teammate during friendly tournament action Jan. 21.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Members of the Long Pond Rebels and the Unhealthy Scratches battled for control of the puck during an early morning game at Long Pond Jan. 21.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Teams called The Heat and King's-Edgehill School went toe-to-toe during tournament action at Long Pond Jan. 21.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Stanley Cup champion Joe DiPenta, of Anaheim Ducks fame, hustles to get the puck during the match up between King's-Edgehill School and The Heat Jan. 21.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Two-time Stanley Cup champion Stéphane Richer jokes with young fans from the bantam Valley Wild team Amy Lloy and Zoey Rafuse, plus their coach, Scott Lloy.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Ray Bourque's autograph was in high demand at the Long Pond Heritage Classic.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Boston Bruins fan Andrew Dill, who is involved with the Long Pond Heritage Classic, spent some quality time with celebrity guest Ray Bourque when the hockey legend visited the Dill Family Farm's site Jan. 21.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Former NHLers Dennis Vial, Stéphane Richer and Ray Bourque joke around for the cameras Jan. 21.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Hockey great Ray Bourque shares a laugh with one of his Long Pond Rebels teammates.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

The bantam Valley Wild take on a team of Kings County high school hockey girls during their second game of the tournament.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Members of the Long Pond Rebels and the Unhealthy Scratches faced off during an early morning game at Long Pond Jan. 21.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

The men's division match up between Tim Hortons and the Long Pond Rebels was spirited.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

This isn't the first time Dennis Vial has come to Long Pond to play hockey. The retired NHLer has attended a few Long Pond Heritage Classic fundraisers.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Fans were excited to meet retired NHLer Stéphane Richer, who came to the Long Pond Heritage Classic at the last minute after Andre 'Moose' Dupont fell ill and was unable to make it.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Ryan and Lucas Allen asked for Ray Bourque's autograph during a break in play Jan. 21. They are grandsons of David and Anna Allen.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

Ray Bourque's autograph was in high demand for both young and old hockey fans.

Photos by Carole Morris-Underhill

'Tough gal' Zoe Rafuse, of the Valley Wild, jokes around with Dennis Vial, a former defenceman who played with the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators.

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WINDSOR, N.S. — Although retired from playing professional hockey, the celebrity guests attending Windsor's Long Pond Heritage Classic were more than eager to get back out on the ice and score a few goals.

They were also more than accommodating when it came to autographing merchandise and chatting with fans about the sport they love.

Former Boston Bruins star Ray Bourque, who still holds the record for most career goals, assists, and points for a defenceman in the NHL, two-time Stanley Cup champion Stéphane Richer, Cole Harbour's Joe DiPenta, who was with the Anaheim Ducks when they won their lone Stanley Cup, and Dennis Vial, an enforcer who was known for racking up the penalty minutes while playing with the Ottawa Senators, drew visitors from near and far to Long Pond.

“On my first shift with Ray, he set me up for a goal. He was my idol growing up,” said Andrew Dill, whose family has helped promote Windsor's Long Pond as being the Birthplace of Hockey.

Boston Bruins fan Andrew Dill, who is involved with the Long Pond Heritage Classic, spent some quality time with celebrity guest Ray Bourque when the hockey legend visited the Dill Family Farm's site Jan. 21.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

“It's just a blessing to have somebody of that magnitude and that calibre – an NHL Hall of Famer, highest scoring defenceman ever – to come play on Long Pond in Windsor, Nova Scotia. It's just amazing; it's surreal,” he said.

“It's a great endorsement for Windsor and our claim as the Birthplace of Hockey. They recognize that. They even research the facts and they know the facts and they're the first ones to say it's hockey's home.”

Bourque, who was a fan favourite at the event, juggled signing autographs with taking shifts on the Long Pond Rebels team.

“I've heard a lot about this tournament from guys that came here in the past and then you hear about the history of this place. It's pretty neat to be part of it,” said Bourque.

For the former NHLers, who played on pristine ice surfaces in usually sold-out stadiums, skating on Long Pond was a nice change, and reminiscent of getting back to their roots.

“It's a little different format – no goalies, no nets – but this is how it all started for us,” said Bourque after playing two games. “Not so much on ponds for me but growing up in Montreal, we had rinks on pretty much every corner and I found myself out there every day with my friends. For me, I think it's how I developed as a player – having the opportunity to get out there as much as I did. It was all outdoors. It brings you back to your childhood and those memories – and they were good ones.”

It was Bourque's, DiPenta's and Richer's first time playing at Long Pond.

Stanley Cup champion Joe DiPenta, of Anaheim Ducks fame, hustles to get the puck during the match up between King's-Edgehill School and The Heat Jan. 21.

©Carole Morris-Underhill

“It's a beautiful setting for playing some Canadian hockey. It's kind of what you picture for where the game would have started. It's pretty spectacular,” said DiPenta while watching a young relative play with the Valley Wild.

DiPenta said the wonderful thing about hockey is that anyone, at any age and skill level, can play.

“I'm not much of a goal scorer but I feel like I am out here. They don't have a goalie. It's rejuvenated my confidence in my scoring ability,” said DiPenta with a laugh. “I've enjoyed that.”

The defenceman played 174 NHL games during his career, scoring six goals and registering 17 assists.

During the Jan. 21 event, DiPenta was reunited with a former teammate from his pre-NHL days – Josh Dill, who is now the head coach of the Valley Maple Leafs.

“I think it's a wonderful event for a great cause,” DiPenta said. “I love how it's an intimate event. I like how they've kept it to the integrity of what pond hockey is all about and playing here. I think that's special.”

Richer was a last-minute addition to the line up as Andre 'Moose' Dupont had to cancel his appearance due to an undisclosed illness. Richer said he was more than happy to sub in, and fans of the former Montreal Canadiens player were happy to see him.

Richer, who played 1,054 career NHL games, accumulated 819 points by scoring 421 goals and 398 assists. At 21, he became the youngest Montreal Canadiens player to score 50 goals in a season.

“I grew up playing on a pond like this back home – small town on the farm. For me, it was easy to say yes,” said Richer. “It think it's great. It's one day. You play a few games. You share stories with the boys. We have different stories. I love it.”

The event culminated in a banquet at King's-Edgehill School – the oldest independent school in Canada – and an auction. The money raised at the annual fundraiser goes to preserving hockey history.

Dan Boyd, the communications co-ordinator of the Long Pond Heritage Classic, said the event just keeps growing in popularity and has become an effective means to keep the hockey museum going.

“They have been building in momentum, but this is, without a doubt, the most successful (event) to date,” said Boyd.