Ex-players enjoy ‘chance of a lifetime’ in alumni game

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MINNEAPOLIS — In the moments after a typical game, the Blackhawks are swilling water, energy drinks, and nasty-looking, thick nutritional shakes of various shades of brown — all the things a finely tuned professional athlete needs to stay fit and healthy.

Troy Murray? He had a Coors Light in his hand, and a weary smile on his face.

“Should have started before the game,” he said after the Blackhawks alumni lost 6-4 to the North Stars and Wild alumni in front of 37,922 people at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday night. “I’m going to be sore. I’m icing it from the inside.”

Murray might have to sit down while broadcasting Sunday’s Stadium Series game between the Hawks and the Wild, but the pain was totally worth it. The dressing room after the alumni game was full of exhausted, hunched-over guys in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, all trying to catch their breath, all smiling broadly.

“Feels great,” said 40-year-old Eric Daze, who scored twice for the Hawks alumni. “It was a great experience, the chance of a lifetime.”

It might not have been the swiftest game ever played — aside from the North Stars’ Mike Modano, who looks like he could still play in the NHL at 45 — but it was competitive and entertaining from the start. Legends such as Denis Savard, Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick suited up for the Hawks. Old arch-nemeses such as Dino Ciccarelli, Brian Bellows and Neal Broten donned the familiar green-and-white North Stars sweaters.

Ciccarelli and Savard set the tone early when they “fought” in the opening minute, with Ciccarelli trying to dump the 55-year-old Savard into the Hawks bench. The goaltending was surprisingly impressive, especially considering 58-year-old Murray Bannerman and 65-year-old Gilles Meloche (wearing an old-school goalie mask and flopping around the crease like a fish) started the game. Bannerman made a highlight-reel blocker save on Brad Bombardir, and Hawks goalie coach and former first-round pick Jimmy Waite made a spectacular, but awkward-looking, stick save on Modano in the third period, and made another pad-stacking stop.

“I’m going to get a hard time from [Corey Crawford and Scott Darling],” Waite said. “I can’t believe I did that.”

Murray scored the Hawks’ second goal on a penalty shot in the first period. He turned Meloche inside out with a move in the low slot. A, let’s be honest here, pretty slow move.

“I had a lot of things going through my mind, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do,” Murray said. “I was actually thinking of doing the [Patrick Kane-style] stop and deking in front, but I figured I don’t have the hands to do that.”

The Hawks lost the game, and they’ll surely be hurting for a few days after 60 minutes of hockey. But there were no sad faces in the Hawks room, just plenty of smiles. And plenty of beer.

“It’s amazing,” Daze said. “Amazing. We all played outside when we grew up back home in Montreal, but this was really special. I’m really thankful to have a chance to play in one of these.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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