WINDSOR — This year’s Long Pond Heritage Classic will be a dream weekend for diehard hockey fans.
Featuring hockey games on Long Pond — the same pond believed to be the Cradle of Hockey — and a chance to meet some hockey legends, what more could a hockey fan ask for?
Guy Lafleur, who played with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques, is one of the celebrities attending the hockey fundraiser.
Lafleur’s career spanned 17 seasons and he had five Stanley Cup wins, all with the Canadiens.
“We’ve got him booked solid while he’s here,” said Windsor Hockey Heritage Society President David Hunter. “He’ll be making appearances all over town and at events. He’s been more than willing to do what it takes to help us raise money.”
One of the main events of the classic is the banquet dinner on Jan. 30, which will be hosted by Lafleur. The banquet has already sold out.
“Rich Sutter from the famous Sutter family will also be here,” Hunter said. “JP Bordeleau will also be here, which is interesting because he played against Guy.”
Ric Nattress, a defenceman who played for the Calgary Flames when they won the cup in 1989, is also coming to town.
Attire for the banquet is casual, with hockey sweaters preferred.
“The day we announced Guy was coming we sold over 100 tickets,” Hunter said. “We’ve had companies from outside of Windsor buying up tables of 10.”
The classic has become an important fundraiser for the heritage society since it began five years ago.
“We started it as an idea with Mark Cullen at Home Hardware as a fundraiser for the society,” Hunter said. “We managed to get it underway despite the rain on the first year.”
Hunter said there’s been a trend developing where every second year the Long Pond Heritage Classic gets rained out.
If that holds true, this year’s Long Pond Heritage Classic should be sunny and clear.
“We’re not even crossing our fingers this year; it’s definitely going to happen at the pond this year,” he said.
Players and coaches from other hockey institutions, including at the university level, will also be in attendance and playing on at Long Pond.
“We have games on the pond all day long on Saturday. It’s free admission. Feel free to come up and watch games on the pond,” he said. “The games on the pond, it’s very informal, there’s no rules, it’s just pure pond hockey.”
Players or teams who want to register pay a fee, with funds going to support the society.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser that we have. We have been bringing in a number of NHL stars over the years. Last year we had 10 Stanley Cup rings here that folks could try on.”
It’s no secret that 2016 is going to be a big year for hockey in Windsor, including the potential for a formal announcement of the Birthplace of Hockey Arena.
“We want the rink, we’re supportive of it, and we think the name Birthplace of Hockey (Arena) is a great fit,” he said. “I’m just waiting for it to happen.”
Hunter said he couldn’t comment yet on what the future of the Hockey Heritage Society will be once the rink is confirmed.
“We’re definitely going to put Windsor, Nova Scotia, on the hockey world map this year,” he said.
The opening ceremonies for the Classic are scheduled for noon on Jan. 30.