Leafs Alumni, FARE, fans score in Tillsonburg

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Tillsonburg’s Kayd Brown considers himself a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

“Absolutely, I bleed blue and white every day,” said Brown at Saturday’s Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni hockey game in Tillsonburg, a fundraiser for the Tillsonburg F.A.R.E. program. “Absolutely, 110 per cent.”

Between periods, Brown attended the VIP meet and greet in the Leafs dressing room and came armed with a collection of hockey cards for players to autograph.

“I’ve got some older cards here,” Brown smiled. “I brought Rick Wamsley, Wendel Clark, Dave McLlwain, Mike Krushelnyski, (Rick) Vaive’s right there. I’ve got a few. It’s really cool, I’m really happy. So grateful for the experience. Oh, and here’s Darryl Shannon, too.”

When Brown learned the Town of Tillsonburg’s Recreation Department would be organizing the exhibition game at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena, he was quick to purchase tickets.

“Actually I got my dad for Christmas, too, so it worked out perfect,” said Brown. “It’s been

a great experience. A great atmosphere so far.”

Bryan Hall, from Langton, brought his son Blair – wearing a Leafs toque and jersey – for the VIP experience.

“Oh yeah, he (Blair) is a fan – he’s got a Freddie Andersen stick signed, a James Van Riemsdyk jersey signed, and now we’ve got a Wendel (Clark) jersey signed. I bought a St. Pats jersey, and we got them all to sign it.”

Another huge Leafs fan, Matt McHardy, from London, got the full alumni experience – he won the online auction to ‘Be a Leaf for a Day’.

“It’s awesome, it’s very cool,” said McHardy, wearing Leafs gear in the dressing room. “I grew up a defenceman, switched to forward, so Wendel (Clark) was one of my favourite players growing up. Same thing happened with him, played defence, then switched to forward when he made the NHL. I liked watching him play, he could do it all.

“I was pumped when I heard about this game. It’s for a great cause – I’m involved in some similar (Fee Assisted Recreation Experience program) causes in London. KidSport, Jumpstart, things like that. So I decided I’m going to bid on it – how cool is it to play with these guys? And a couple months later I got the notification that I won.”

McHardy, who played in some Tillsonburg tournaments growing up and still plays men’s league hockey, won the Be a Leaf auction with a bid of $725.

After 20 minutes of hockey, McHardy said the highlight – so far – happened early in the game.

“Coughing up a puck on the boards for a goal, first shift. Yeah, minus one,” McHardy laughed. “That’s always fun.”

He got chirped when he got back to the bench.

“Yeah… from everyone. Everyone said something.”

And McHardy loved it, hoping to redeem himself in the second period.

“Haven’t scored yet, hit a post. But we’ll see, maybe second period.”


Matt McHardy, from London, (left) won the online auction to Be a Leaf for a Day for the Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni hockey game in Tillsonburg Saturday night. Between periods, VIP visitors came into the Leafs dressing room to meet and greet the players, and get autographs. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News/Postmedia Network) jpg, WD


The host team, Tillsonburg FARE Flurries, consisted of representatives from local ice user groups and online auction winners.

“It was good,” nodded Jon Nunn, a coach in Tillsonburg representing Port Burwell Oldtimers, after Saturday’s game. “It was fun, a good time.”

“Definitely worth the experience,” said Chris Sanders, representing Club Oxford Hockey. “A once in a lifetime kind of chance.”

“Absolutely I’m a Leafs fan,” said Chris Parker, one of five auction winners who played for the local FARE team. “It was a blast, they were nice guys.

“Tough to play against, I’ll give them credit,” Parker smiled. “They were awesome.”

“Some big shots, they haven’t forgotten how to shoot, that’s for sure,” said Nunn. “They could score from anywhere inside the blue line…”

“Yeah, they could pick a corner,” Sanders agreed.

Wendel Clark, a former Leafs captain, scored 330 goals in his 793 game NHL career. Rick Vaive, also a former Leafs captain, scored 441 goals in 876 games – surpassing the 50-goal mark three times from 81-84.

Although the first shift of Saturday’s game started slow, the pace quickly picked up after Tillsonburg Flurries scored and the Leafs’ skill began to stand out.

“When Clark came down and scored bar down… yeah,” said Sanders. “And McLlwain put one top corner from the red line – flicked the wrist and yeah it’s gone.”

“It’s crazy how they have that second, third level to get to,” said Parker.

Sportsmanship, however, was maintained throughout the night.

“They were very accommodating,” said Parker. “Good sports.”


Toronto Maple Leafs alumni goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin stops Tillsonburg’s Derek Dodsley on a first-period breakaway Saturday during a fundraising exhibition at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena in Tillsonburg. Funds raised at the sold out game will go to the F.A.R.E. (Fee Assisted Recreational Experience) program in Tillsonburg. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News/Postmedia Network) jpg, WD


After two periods, Leafs alumni had won the hockey game, but the fundraising cause – and entertaining the fans – was more important for both teams.

“We came out to play for F.A.R.E. – and that’s what we did,” said F.A.R.E. captain Derek Dodsley, an auction winner. “It was a lot of fun and kind of neat to have everybody (on the home team) coming together from different leagues. That was the cool part of it. And you get to play against your all-time heroes.

“I tried to give Clark a chirp, see if he’d go, but I still think he’s got it,” Dodsley joked.

Dodsley, a multi-sport athlete, grew up playing minor hockey (and baseball and football) in Tillsonburg, and was impressed by the sold out 900-plus crowd Saturday night. “It was pretty neat to see all the people in the stands… if you could look up. It was kind of nerve-racking, but pretty cool to see the community support.

“It was fun – would have been a lot easier if there was a football out there, but…”