FOGO ISLAND, NL – Montreal Canadiens alumni will soon be skating Fogo ice and facing off against the Fogo Islanders.
The former NHLers will be at the Iceberg Arena on March 17, playing with Fogo Island’s travelling men’s hockey team.
As part of the event, three Fogo players have been given the opportunity to join the alumni team and play side-by-side with the Canadiens.
One of those lucky locals, 74-year-old Roy Dwyer, still plays recreational hockey three times a week. He’s a lifelong player and Montreal Canadiens fan, and now his love of hockey will come full circle as he dons that Montreal Canadiens jersey to play alongside the alumni.
Looking back to his youth playing hockey on frozen ponds with two boots as goal posts, Dwyer says it’s hard to believe he’ll now be playing on a team with former NHLers.
“It’s a big change over from being a boy who learned the game on the ponds during winter months,” said Dwyer. “I never believed that I’d be playing for Montreal sometime down the road.”
Dwyer was in a state of shock when Jeff Neil called and asked if he was ready to play for the Montreal Canadiens.
“I didn’t know it was in the works at the time, so I was totally surprised when he said it,” said Dwyer.
An opportunity not to be missed
In September the prospect of bringing the alumni team to Fogo Island was offered via an email to the town’s arena. The local hockey league soon went to work to ensure the opportunity would not be missed.
While it cost around $22,000 to bring the team there, Fogo Islanders committee treasurer Keith Freake says the opportunity was so enticing, they would not allow money to be an obstacle.
“We didn’t want to let this slide,” Freake said. “Even the b’ys who were Toronto fans were saying right away, ‘Yes, let’s make this happen.’”
Additional seating is being added to the arena, as well as VIP tickets to meet and greet the alumni players. Due to the limited capacity at the Iceberg Arena, the game has not been advertised outside of Fogo Island.
“We think it’s going to be great for the community,” said Jeff Neil, committee member and Fogo Islanders player. “It’s probably the biggest event, particularly around sports, that’s ever been hosted here on the island.”
The Fogo Islanders play three days a week and in many tournaments around Newfoundland and Labrador throughout the year. But Neil says to face off against Montreal Canadiens will certainly be a new experience for the players.
“You want to give them a good competitive game,” said Neil. “I’m sure it’ll be a difficult task.”
Freake agrees it could be quite a challenge if the NHL players give it their all, but he hopes above all to just put on a good show.
Playing alongside the supermen
As part of the “thrill of a lifetime” offered to the three players who will join the alumni team for the big game, personal Montreal Canadiens jerseys will be given to those players and sport their names and numbers.
As Dwyer prepares to join the Canadiens with his personal jersey, he says he’s grateful for the opportunity and hopes to be healthy and limber when he steps out on the ice.
It will be a strange transition for Dwyer, who can still recalls the days of listening to NHL games over the radio as a young boy.
“Back in the day listening to the radio we thought the NHL players were supermen – they only existed in our imagination,” Dwyer reminisced. “The first game of hockey I saw on television I was disappointed because I saw these guys had limits after all.”