Laforest will suit up with the NHL Alumni team Saturday, April 14 at the Cobourg Community Centre when they take on Northumberland’s Hometown Team in support of Northumberland United Way and Habitat for Humanity Northumberland.

Article by Jeff Gard 

He enjoys playing hockey, of course, but do many other former goaltenders really want to strap on the pads again?

Goaltender Mark Laforest will suit up with the NHL Alumni team Saturday, April 14 at the Cobourg Community Centre.

“No!” NHL Alumni Goaltender Mark Laforest said over the phone.

“Most goalies are smart enough not to go in the net again,” he quipped. “My ego isn’t as big as it used to be so if I give up nine or 10 goals then I give up nine or 10.”

Laforest will suit up with the NHL Alumni team Saturday, April 14 at the Cobourg Community Centre when they take on Northumberland’s Hometown Team in support of Northumberland United Way and Habitat for Humanity Northumberland.

Other members announced to play for the Alumni team are Rick Vaive, Dave Reid, Al Iafrate, Matthew Barnaby, Dave McLlwain, Lou Franceschetti, Dan Daoust, Mark Napier, Gilbert Dionne and Todd Hlushko along with referee Dave Hutchison and celebrity coach Walter Gretzky.

Laforest was in Cobourg two years ago when United Way and Habitat hosted a similar game involving members of the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni taking on local players. It’s enjoyable, he says, to play with former teammates and opponents.

“It’s seeing the old faces. There are guys I’ve played against or never met. It’s fun to be in the dressing room with the guys, joking around and making fun of a guy’s skating or whatever. It’s like you never left the room,” Laforest said. “Some of the guys I played with I haven’t seen in years. It’s like not missing a beat, even if you haven’t seen them in 10 years.”

Laforest said players “tend not to want to embarrass themselves in front of their peers” in larger alumni games such as outdoor stadium games, but noted events such as the upcoming one in Cobourg all about entertainment.

“We seem to be received really well, especially in small communities, because we do put on a show,” he said. “It’s great to be part of a community that wants to help other people. It’s very gratifying.”

Nicknamed ‘Trees,’ Laforest played NHL games for the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. He stayed away from the game for a number of years following retirement until he was invited to a 3-on-3 game in Ottawa. Of course, much like today, the alumni team needed a goaltender.

“I had a blast. Once I got in the room, it was a riot,” Laforest said.

Puck drops for the April 14 game at the CCC is scheduled for 6 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m.

General admission tickets are available for $15 per adult and $5 per child and can be purchased online at northumberlandwest.snapd.com/ or in person at United Way (62 Swayne St., Cobourg) and the Habitat Restore (764 Division St., Cobourg). Tickets will also be available at the door.

Laforest said those in attendance can expect that “Ricky Vaive will take about 100 shots on net and score some goals” and be surprised at the skill level of Barnaby and the size of Iafrate, adding he hopes the former defenceman doesn’t take a big slap shot. Iafrate held the NHL record for the hardest shot record (105.2 miles per hour) for 16 years.

“Lou Franceschetti is just a character,” Laforest added.

Meanwhile, Northumberland’s Hometown Team will consist of players representing sponsors as well as others who fundraised $1,000 to be on the team.

The opportunity is still available, for the cost of $1,500, for anyone who wants to assist Walter Gretzky on the NHL Alumni bench.

Two types of VIP tickets, available only through Habitat for Humanity, are offered.

VIP Plus (cost is $150) includes access to the NHL Alumni locker room after the first period for a private meet-and-greet and signing opportunity with the players, reserved seating during the game and entry into the VIP reception. Regular VIP tickets ($99) include reserved seating and entry into the reception.

“This is a great opportunity to come together and celebrate one of Canada’s favourite pastimes while supporting your local community,” Habitat executive director Meaghan Macdonald stated in a media release. “Whether you’re playing the game, assisting Walter, sponsoring or cheering from the stands, your support is making a difference.”

In the release, United Way and Habitat thanked sponsors including Behan Construction, Cameco Corporation, Ontario Line Clearing and Wharram Tree Service Ltd., Boston Pizza, RBC Wealth Management, Johnny O’s Sports, Northumberland Tirecraft, MyFM and Willow Publishing.