WILKES-BARRE — Once Chris Kelleher arrived in the old locker room, all the memories he made playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins came rushing back.
There was even more for him to reminisce about once he hit the ice.
It was great to see all the people come out, Kelleher said. It means a lot to play in front of these people, still.
Kelleher celebrated a reunion of retired ex-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who handled a hockey team of Pennsylvania State Police troopers 12-5 Friday in a charity ice hockey game at the packed Ice Rink at Coal Street.
I played with most of these guys, so there were a lot of memories coming back, Kelleher said.
Just like old times.
This time, things were a little different, though.
Unlike their Penguins playing days, Friday's affair was more fluff.
There was no checking, no animosity and no fighting.
Thank heavens, smiled former Penguins tough guy Dennis Bonvie. That's the last thing we need.
What the former Penguins really needed was a little ice time, as they prepared to take on a bunch of ex-Hershey Bears in an outdoor game at 3 p.m. today at Hersheypark Stadium.
And Friday's skate provided a just the tune-up the old Penguins wanted.
Just kind of got a sense for how it's going to be (today), Kelleher said.
With most of these Penguins at least a few years removed from their playing days, they struggled to regain the cohesion they once displayed while gracefully moving across the ice when they represented Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's AHL team.
I played a couple games of pickup hockey (during the past few weeks) just to get the legs back into it, said Bonvie, now a scout. It's not easy once you quit for a little while.
The State Police scored first, and the Penguins appeared a bit sluggish until Brendan Buckley – a four-year WBS vet – gave the ex-Penguins a 2-1 lead with just over a minute remaining in the opening period.
From there, the Penguins regained a taste of their old playing days, rattling off four goals in the second period and six more in the third.
The periods were cut to 15 minutes apiece – as opposed to the game's regular 20-minute stanzas – and there was just one indication of a would-be temper tantrum when a state trooper playfully dropped his stick and gloves late in the game.
Everybody ignored him.
It was a lot of fun, Kelleher said. We shared the locker room with them (the troopers) before the game. We said, ‘There's no physical stuff out there.' Today was a whole bunch of fun.
And the battle with the old Bears?
It'll be the same, Bonvie said. It'll be a lot of fun. That's what it's all about.