Thursday, May 03, 2007

Good Game

A squad of Canadian ex-NHLers were easily victorious over a team of battle-seasoned soldiers who took them on in a Kandahar ball-hockey game Thursday.
The NHL vets beat Team Task Force 7 to 1, while hundreds of fans cheered them on under a hot, Afghan sun.
The hockey legends are visiting Canadian troops in Kandahar -- accompanied by hockey's top trophy, the Stanley Cup -- in a morale-building exercise.
Later Thursday, they will gather for a barbeque and a concert by Newfoundland singer-songwriter Terry Kelly. Proving that it is indeed a special occasion, the troops will even be treated to a couple of beers -- normally off limits for soldiers.
Hockey legends Bob Probert, Mark Napier and Yvon Lambert were among those who handed the soldiers their crushing defeat -- mixing in some rough-housing and bending the rules in a way that would never fly in the NHL.
Legendary enforcer Dave (Tiger) Williams mixed it up with Cpl. Mike Loder, 24, of the 2nd Newfoundland Regiment in a good-natured hockey fight, complete with Williams 'jerseying' Loder.
Williams said the scrap was blown way out of proportion.
"Typical media crap," he joked with TSN's Brian Williams on CTV's Canada AM.
"He had a big camel spider on his cheek and I was trying to rub it off, and this young man didn't understand I was trying to help my fellow soldier and he kind of panicked a little bit."
Loder agreed it was all a big misunderstanding.
"He swiped it off once it jumped onto his shoulder, so I was trying to swipe it off, and that's how everything broke out."
He suggested he's done combat with tougher adversaries
"He's a bit softer than he was back in his day. That's for sure," he joked, almost prompting another brawl to break out.
And midway through the third period the heat took its toll on goaltender Ron Tugnutt, who had a Tim Hortons' iced cappuccino delivered to him between the pipes.
Among the spectators at the game were members of Hotel Company from the Royal Canadian Regiment -- the same group that lost six soldiers in a roadside bombing last month.
Maj. Alex Ruff, commander of the company, told Canada AM his soldiers came directly from the battlefield to take part in the celebrations.
"It's a great thing. I pulled my company in last night from operations so the guys had this opportunity to see the Cup, see the players and just relax -- even if it is for a short period before we're back out there doing what we've got to do."
Ruff, from Tara, Ont., said the support from home, and among the troops, has been the key to helping soldiers get through the challenge of losing so many comrades.
Ball hockey is a major source of entertainment and exercise for the troops in Kandahar. The sport is so popular that a league has been formed with 15 teams and 300 players who play twice a week. more

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