Former Goaldiggers, Storm players to hit ice for alumni gameWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For former Toledo Goaldiggers goalie Ted Tucker, the upcoming alumni game is going to be a family reunion for him and other hockey players.
“Even though we’re a family, we grow apart but we come together at the reunion and this is what this is going to be, a nice reunion for all of these players,” Tucker said.
Tucker is one of 19 former Storm and Goaldiggers players returning for the Feb. 17 alumni game, which will take place before the Toledo Walleye square off against the Fort Wayne Komets.
Tucker said the game will allow Walleye fans to put faces to the banners hanging up in the Huntington Center.
“People want to see this and if you’re new to the sport, you’ll see the old player and what he would look like and not just the banners in the raptors in the Huntington Center,” he said.” “The people from the past, they want to enjoy it and they will remember it.”
The former Toledo players will play Fort Wayne’s alumni team, which will help rekindle a long-time rivalry between the two cities.
“Fort Wayne and Toledo always had a big rivalry; they had guys we didn’t like and vise-versa,” Tucker said. “Their building itself was an old building but well kept and the crowd and intensity was there.”
Tucker said all of the alumni have kept hockey in their lives, whether it is coaching, teaching a clinic or just playing drop-in hockey.
“The guys that are playing in this game have never really given up and have good dedication,” he said. “We’re not going to be the player we were on the ice, but we’re still going to give a product out there.”
Two of the Walleye’s coaches, head coach Nick Vitucci and assistant coach Dan Watson, are on Toledo’s roster.
Vitucci, a former netminder, played with the Storm from 1993-95 and again in the 1997-98 season. He also became head coach of the Storm beginning in 2003.
Watson, a former defenseman who played with the Storm in their final year of existence, said he is going to have to adjust to wearing a track suit on the ice to all the equipment.
“But once you’re a player, you’re always a player and it’ll just be making passes and the biggest thing will be having fun at this alumni game,” he said.
While there will not be any checking, Tucker said fans attending can still expect to see a competitive game.
“Players still have their shots, they can shoot and skating will still be there, just a notch below then what they were at,” he said. “It’s going to be more or less bragging rights.”
Tucker, who is 63-years-old, said he still plays hockey twice a week and is the assistant coach with Anthony Wayne High School’s hockey team.
He said he does not play goalie anymore and struggled a bit at the alumni team’s first practice because of all the equipment he has to wear again.
“I can’t make saves like I could anymore; I put the pads on and I felt like a pylon out there with all this new equipment,” Tucker said. “So I have to find smaller pads before I can play.”
With the Komets joining the ECHL this year, Watson said the rivalry will continue to grow the more the two division foes face each other.
“You can definitely feel it; I think it’s one that’s going to build over the years, Watson said. “But as a team, we’re getting to that point now if not we’re at it for sure. With every game we play, you can tell the intensity picks up, the physical play picks up and you can tell it’s going to be a great division rivalry because of how close we are. Fans are going to travel to both arenas and they’re going to get into it. I think it’s great for both teams.”
The Walleye will play Fort Wayne 11 times throughout the 2012-13 season and so far Toledo has the edge against the Komets so far, winning five of the seven meetings.
Tucker said the game of hockey has evolved since he joined the league in the 1970s.
Tucker, who played with Toledo in the 1974-75 and 1976-78 seasons, said participating in the alumni games are his way of giving back to the fans.
“For me, as a player, it’s giving back to the community and the fans of how they treated me; it’s my way of saying thanks,” he said.
Opening faceoff for the alumni game will be at 2 p.m. Toledo and Fort Wayne will begin at 5 p.m.
Tickets are $15 and will give fans access to both games.