MINNEAPOLIS – Troy Murray was taking face-offs against Dennis Maruk on Saturday evening in a much less contentious manner than when the two squared off during their NHL playing days.
“That’s a guy I went head to head against for years with the Minnesota North Stars, and we just kind of laughed out there on the ice,” Murray said. "We had a great time.”
For the Blackhawks and North Stars alumni, Saturday night’s game, as well as Friday night’s gathering at former Blackhawks/North Stars defenseman Tom Reid’s restaurant, were great times to reminisce about those heated rivalry days.
“In the old Norris division, we’d play these guys eight times then you play them in the playoffs again and the preseason. It was no wonder we hated each other because we played each other so much,” said Steve Konroyd. “Today, everyone wanted to make sure nobody got hurt and everyone had a good time, and that’s what happened.”
Indeed it looked like everyone had a great time in the alumni game, which the North Stars won 6-4. From those who played in those venom-filled Norris Division games to those who were part of a newer generation for each team, it was an enjoyable day.
“It was a real treat,” said former Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers. “From the amount of fans that there were to the atmosphere, to meeting guys I watched play growing up and to get a chance to play against them – like Brian Bellows and Bobby Smith – it’s a real neat experience and a real brotherhood. It’ll be an unbelievable atmosphere for the [Blackhawks and Wild] tomorrow.”
There were some pretty nice plays out there, too. Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite made two great stops in the third period, one a stacked-pad stop and another a sprawling stick stop on Mike Modano.
“Some of those guys can still play, like Modano. He’s still flying out there,” Waite said. “I was pretty happy to make that save on him.”
Modano thought he had Waite beat.
“Flopping around, I thought I had him down and out. I’m just gonna lay it on the ice and that stick came back. I’m like, ‘oh,’” Modano said with a smile. “How do you not get it off the ice a little bit?”
Murray’s big moment came when he scored on a penalty shot, beating goaltender Gilles Meloche.
It was funny because Gilles said, ‘I was giving you the five-hole,’” Murrsay said. “I just figured I could hold onto it, out wait him and it worked.”
The alumni game meant something to everyone who participated. All were happy to reminisce and see each other. They were thrilled to represent their former teams. And for some, reliving those glorious yet vehement Norris Division days in a kinder, gentler manner made the weekend.
“The stories that were going around [Friday] night… were just incredible. To hear their side of the stories of the rivalries that we knewinside our room, they felt the same way. They had to make sure they were prepared and they didn’t sleep the night before the games; we didn’t either,” Murray said. “We just went back and talked about the good-old days, the way the game was played. You realize for the guys, that’s the way it works most of the time: the guys you hate paying against are some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.”