HERSHEY – In one snap decision, Alain Nasreddine went from coaching hockey games to playing in one again.
It only gave him a snapshot of some old glory.
A last-minute addition to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's alumni roster, Nasreddine scored one goal and assisted on another in the ex-Penguins' 9-5 victory over a bunch of former Hershey Bears in an alumni game played outdoors Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
You know what, I wasn't planning on playing the game, Nasreddine said. I sat down and started talking with my wife. My kids said they never got to see me play. I said, ‘Yeah, you did,' but they were too young to remember.
I thought it was a good opportunity for them.
For him, too.
And maybe for today's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who will square off with Hershey at 5 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium in an AHL outdoor game.
To play in Saturday's affair, Nasreddine – who currently works as a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins assistant – had to get the blessing of his boss, Penguins head coach John Hynes.
He was all for it, even encouraged it, Nasreddine said.
So Nasreddine rushed across the Hershey parking lot from the Giant Center following Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's Saturday practice and made it in time to join the squad of Penguins past players for the start of the alumni showdown.
It helped that the game's start was delayed by about a half-hour while officials struggled to solidify the outdoor rink that turned a little slushy in Hershey's 40-degree, mid-afternoon temperatures.
It didn't help Nasreddine that he hadn't really played competitively in a couple years.
You know what happens? You think you still have it, Nasreddine said. You're out there skating every day at practice. But I don't have the full equipment on. It's a whole different story when you have the full equipment on. It felt awkward. If you ever dream of making a comeback, this kind of dashes those dreams.
It's a wakeup call.
But it may have been the right call for the current Penguins.
As an assistant coach, Nasreddine may be able to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton an added advantage by sharing with the team his experience of playing a game on outdoor ice, since the Penguins will be venturing into unknown territory by playing at Hersheypark Stadium tonight.
The one thing, if we had to go at 3 o'clock, the sun would be a factor, Nasreddine said. But I don't see that happening (today). The other thing, I thought the ice was a little soft.
The Penguins alumni, though, played like hardened veterans.
Dennis Bonvie fed Martin Sonnenberg for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's first goal Saturday, replicating the franchise's first-ever goal in 1999 to tie the alumi game 1-1.
Bonvie couldn't resist stealing the show by scoring two goals including the last, adding that assist to Sonnenberg and playfully mixing it up with old Hershey nemesis Louis Robitaille in a staged, slow-motion scuffle that drew roars of appreciation from the 14,000-plus crowd.
And if that wasn't enough to get Penguins fans geared up, Sonnenberg had a hat trick by halftime – the game consisted of two 25-minute halves and a running clock – to put the Penguins safely ahead 8-4.
This has been an unbelievable experience for me, said Sonnenberg, who still plays club hockey in Canada after retiring from the game three years ago. I felt good.
He said it felt like old times for him, even if this outdoor venture was something completely new.
That was my first outdoor game, Sonnenberg said. I expected it to be colder, didn't expect this many fans.
I had a lot of fun.
Along with the rest of the Penguins alumni, including the guy who was literally a coach on the ice.
I coach 24/7, Nasreddine said. This was the one time, for two hours, where I didn't have to worry about coaching.