On Wednesday night, a team featuring members of the Vancouver Canucks, their family members, and a few players from around the NHL (with ties to Vancouver), took on the UBC Thunderbirds ice hockey team. This assortment of characters was given the name ‘Bieksa’s Buddies’, after the man who had rounded them all up, Kevin Bieksa.
The idea for the game was originally constructed by Bieksa, with the idea that the proceeds from ticket sales would go to various charities. It was a great concept, and it was executed beautifully. I was fortunate enough to attend the game, but rather than just enjoying myself while taking it all in, I decided to take stringent notes. Thus is the life of a heartless, conniving blogger.
Click Past the Jump for Notes on the Game.
The lockout has taken many things from me thus far, but the facet of the NHL lockout that has inflicted the biggest hurt has been being left without games involving professional hockey players that I can analyze critically. It was a charity game, so there weren’t necessarily two points on the line, but that didn’t stop it from busting some of the misconceptions that we may have held as we entered the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
"I don’t like Michael Buble" .. is what you might have heard me say as I got to my seat before the festivities got underway. It’s not that I’ve got anything personally against him – he rocks a mean poncho. I simply caved to peer pressure, as Wyatt Arndt (who was sitting beside me) made his intentions of heckling Buble abundantly clear from the outset. He definitely didn’t help his own cause by pulling himself from the game, either. But then he matched the money that was raised by the ticket sales, donating $100,000 from his own pocket to charity. I guess you’re not all that bad, Buble.
"You can’t keep track of stats in a charity game" .. yet I did. I actually started off the game paying close attention to all of the scoring chances that were happening, but as I quickly realized, playing defense wasn’t mandatory. It turns out that in a game of this nature, everything that makes its way onto the net can be deemed a "scoring chance".
Bieksa’s Buddies jumped out of the gate quickly, being on the attack early and often. Yet somehow, the Thunderbirds managed to come out of the first 20 minutes playing them to a 3-3 draw, despite being outchanced 16-9. What happened in the 2nd period was classic 2011-12 Canucks hockey –
the Presidents’ Trophy was won Bieksa’s Buddies played with a world class amount of complacency and malaise. The TBirds outchanced them 14-7, jumping out to a 7-3 lead.
Things were looking good for the young and brash upstarts, and grim for the shorthanded professionals. For the TBirds, they were playing the perfect charity road game, silencing the crowd by not giving them anything to cheer about. Cory Schneider was getting punked, and fans were collectively considering heading out to beat the traffic rather than sticking around.
Unfortunately for them, we were quickly reminded that we were being subjected to a game pitting professional hockey players against amateurs. The final stanza was an absolute clinic. The Buddies managed a whopping 26 scoring chances, outscoring UBC 5-0 to squeak out a win.
"Everyone looks good in a charity game" .. is what I’m sure Jim Vandermeer told himself in the mirror as he prepared for tonight’s game. Technically, he played. A lot. So we’ll have to chalk that one up as a ‘pro’ for his performance. I won’t necessarily getting into the ‘cons’ here, but I’ll say this – if the lockout drags on into December, I’ll strongly consider doing a multi-part series on things Jim Vandermeer needs to work on at Beer League. His night was summed up perfectly by a brutal miss of an empty net in the final seconds of the game.
While the game was still in its early stages, I figured that I would wind up crushing Aaron Volpatti on this platform. Thanks to some of the celebrity scratches, he was forced into the line of duty as a defenseman, which netted results you’d expect – turnovers, and questionable positioning. But he wound up scoring two goals, and assisting on the game winner, so I guess you could say that I left UBC pleasantly surprised with the ‘Aaron Volpatti as a defenseman’ experience.
I have no doubt in my mind that Tanner Glass’ first move after this game was to message his agent, to confirm that the Pittsburgh Penguins would still be interested in his services once the NHL season resumed. He’s not exactly a wizard with the puck. And as you’ll note in the picture below, he wore some of his Penguins attire out onto the ice.
The game had more than its share of other memorable moments, as well. I wondered aloud why one of the opposing players wouldn’t try taking a good natured run at one of the Sedins. Any publicity is good publicity, right? It turns out that they should have, because the Sedins were wheelin’ and dealin’ all night. As if making the careers of Anson Carter and Taylor Pyatt wasn’t enough, they were asked to elevate Marty Bieksa. And they did. He scored a goal in the 3rd, and wasn’t all that far from a handful more.
Max Lapierre brought it, in a big way. He was flying all around the ice throughout the game, getting up to stuff as he’s liable to do. I’m sure he didn’t let the nature of the game stop him from yapping, either. I would pay good money for a pay-per-view channel that had Lapierre mic’d up throughout games, to hear the nonsense that exits his mouth at warp speed.
But what I’d pay even more money for, is to find out what went through Cory Schneider’s head tonight. Early on, he was the victim of some stellar individual efforts by Thunderbirds players. They were going for broke coming in on the rush, and a few rockets wound up sneaking past him and just inside the bar.
He wasn’t to blame for those, but the fingers can be squarely pointed at him – and as a general rule, Jim Vandermeer – for the debacle that was the 2nd period. He was routinely out of position, and at one point mishandled the puck leading to a goal. Thankfully, he rebounded with a strong third period. He wasn’t tested often, but made a few tough saves in the dying seconds to preserve the lead. Cue up the goaltending controversy!
The festivities ended with a shootout, as the teams went back and forth for 10 rounds. What transpired, you ask? UBC’s goaltender can tell his grandchildren that he once stopped Henrik and Daniel Sedin on shootout attempts back-to-back, Marty Bieksa tossed his glove at the opposing goaltender (making his brother’s heart swell with pride), and Aaron Volpatti came to the realization that playing defense was hardly the toughest part of his night as he attempted to score on three goaltenders stuffed into one net.
The shootout ended in a 2-2 tie. Why? Because it’s a charity game, and a resolution on the scoreboard isn’t exactly the highest thing on the docket. Plus the good guys had already taken care of business in regulation.
The winners of the night? Technically, the Bieksa’s Buddies squad. But in reality, the winners were the fans in attendance, the UBC Thunderbirds players that got to go up against NHL players, and the charities that benefited from this great event. In hindsight, the only loser may have been the guy who – in a misguided attempt to fill the void left by the NHL lockout – kept scoring chances, and game notes, culminating in a somewhat serious game review.