The National Hockey League may have entered the 75th day of its lockout, but that did not stop fans from watching some of their favorite stars from around the league at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. on Nov. 24.
Operation Hat Trick was a charity game led by Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers and Brad Richards of the New York Rangers. Normally, these two players are engaged in an intense on-ice rivalry; however, they set aside their differences for one night to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief.
“I think it was great that Hartnell and Richards put it together with the help of a few others. It was great to see the players out there having fun,” Flyer fan Rachel Farley said. “I think the game meant a lot to the players also since most of them spend a lot of time at the NJ and NY shores.”
The game may have been an exhibition charity game where standings did not matter, but the fans still treated it with the intensity of a postseason matchup. Chants such as the classic “Maaaar-tyyy!” were bellowed when Team Hartnell goaltender Martin Brodeur let in a goal. “Fire Bettman!” was another favorite of the fans, giving them the opportunity to vent their frustrations on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Despite not playing in the game “Crosby Sucks!” also made its way around. What could a hockey game be without a few chirps at Sidney Crosby.
The rosters for each team gave the game the appearance of an All-Star game. Team Richards was represented by Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators, James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ville Leino and Taylor Pyatt of the Buffalo Sabres, Matt Martin of the New York Islanders and Mike Komisarek of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Several of Richards’ Ranger teammates played as well- Brian Boyle, Jeff Halpern, Arron Asham, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Steve Eminger and Henrik Lundqvist. The team was coached by Vinny Guadagnino from MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”
Team Hartnell also had their fair share of stars from along the league. Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, David Clarkson, Andy Greene and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, James van Riemsdyk of the Maple Leafs, Simon Gagne and Justin Williams of the Los Angeles Kings, Daniel Carcillo of the Chicago Blackhawks, Steve Downie of the Washington Capitals and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens all suited up for Team Hartnell.
Several of Hartnell’s Flyer teammates played alongside him as well – Jody Shelley, Wayne Simmonds, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn. The team was coached by former Flyer tough guy Rick Tocchet.
Legendary referee Kerry Fraser even made an appearance to referee the contest. Fraser last worked a regular-season game in April 2010 between the Flyers and Rangers and refereed last January’s Flyers-Rangers alumni game. Fraser still maintains residence in the greater-Philadelphia area, so his one-night-only appearance was only fitting.
On the ice, Team Richards won by a 10-6 margin. Neal was the only player to put the hat trick in “Operation Hat Trick,” leading both teams in scoring with four goals. Lundqvist was spectacular, recording 57 saves on 63 Team Hartnell shots.
All in all, the event was a success. The event raised over $500,000 for the New Jersey Relief Fund as well as the Empire State Relief Fund. Rocker Sammy Hagar of Van Halen also donated $1,000 for each goal scored, as he owned a restaurant in Atlantic City that was damaged by the storm. Nearly 11,000 people attended, which resulted in a complete sellout of the stadium.
There may be no NHL hockey for the time being, but fans were still given the unique opportunity to watch some of their favorite stars while supporting and contributing to an excellent cause.