Red Wings win shootout, 9-6
VAIL – No Igor? No problem.Igor Larionov was a late scratch because of an injury in a tournament in Vancouver, British Columbia, earlier this week, but that still didn’t put a damper on the renewal of the Detroit Red Wings Alumni-Vail Mountaineers annual series Friday night.In front of a packed Dobson Arena, doubtless filled with NHL-starved fans, the Red Wings skated to a 9-6 win over the Mountaineers.”It would be nicer to be in the Pepsi Center, but we’re just trying to make the most of it,” said Avs assistant coach Tony Granato, who suited up for the Mountaineers. “We’re just trying to have some fun. It’s obviously to raise money for the youth programs. They’ve done a great job in trying to promote the sport and make some money to get some kids on the ice. I think it’s a phenomenal thing. Just to be able to come up here and be able to help out a little bit is nice.”No. 8 in the houseWhile Larionov was a no-show another No. 8 – Dennis Polonich – put on a show with four goals in the first period and a fifth in the third for good measure.
Normally, altitude favors the Mountaineers, but Polonich is the exception.”I come from Calgary, Alberta, up by Banff and Lake Louise,” he said. “We’re up in a little elevation there. I play a little bit of hockey and I’m in decent shape. This is my first year to Vail. I heard about the trip and Dennis Hextall and the guys invited me to come. The people around here are fabulous the way they look after us.””These guys are flying tonight. Holy moley. Where’s the air,” asked Avs coach Joel Quenneville, who wore No. 3 for Vail, during the first intermission. “They’re on a roll right now. They can’t play any better. The one line potted in four quick ones on us and maybe we’ll have to pay attention to them.”Ca-chingDetroit walked out to a 5-0 lead after one and was leading 7-1, when in a rite of spring, Vail Resorts CEO Adam Aron skated between the pipes. Granato roared down the ice and ripped his shot.
“I’m thinking, ‘Is he going to go right or is he going to go left.’ I was in the zone,” Aron said with a laugh. “I was ready to handle it. What I still don’t know is if I actually made the save or did it hit the post?”That was most definitely iron, Adam, but we’ll give you the save for style points.”I kept on signaling to (Detroit coach) Nick Libett that it was time to send the first-string real Red Wing goalie back,” Aron said. “He wouldn’t take me off.”Aron, as were most fans and players in the building, was like a kid in a candy store.”I wish I was 25,” said Vail’s Andy Clark, who in fact turned 40 Friday. “But like I told the guys in the locker room, ‘There are thousands of men’s hockey players who’d give their right arm to be in these locker rooms tonight.’ … It’s the closest thing to Fantasy Island.”Hitting the slopes
All work and no play makes a Red Wing or a Mountaineer a dull boy. The players have hit the hill and will continue to do so this weekend.”We probably spent too much time on the slopes today,” Granato joked. “Simba is one of our favorite runs, but we went in the Back Bowls for the first time in a while. Unfortunately, our skiing is improving and that’s a bad sign when you’re a hockey coach or player and you can ski at this time of year. Again, the people here have been unbelievable as far as welcoming us.””This is 15 years in a row that we’ve had our alumni out here and every year it’s as much fun or even more,” Detroit’s Dennis Hextall said. “Just about the whole group skied today up to around three o’ clock. We’ll ski tomorrow. Some of the guys stay out until Monday and ski, so we get four or five good days of skiing in.”NHL in 2005-06?Quenneville and Granato obviously wouldn’t be here for Friday’s game had it not been for the cancellation of the NHL season. But, both think that the NHL will be back in business this fall.”I’m hopeful,” Quenneville said. “I know it’s been a long process and we anticipated it taking some time. Let’s hope we can play in the fall when we get back together and, hopefully, resume.
“Short-term, there might be some goodwill which needs to be repaired on our side, but I think the game’s such a great game and it’s fast and fun to watch. Maybe with some adjustments with the game coming out of the lockout, hopefully, we can make it more entertaining.””I just hope we’re back in September at regular training camp and we can come back as a better product, a more exciting product,” Granato said. “We’ve got tremendous fans in lots of parts of the country and we have to take advantage of that and pay them back when we do come back.”Ice chipsBill Muckalt, Jon Findstrom, Sergei Kharin and Mike Krushelnyski also scored for Detroit. For the locals, Matt Blake led with two. Chad Warren, Mick Kelly, Mike Gish and Dick Hoene lit the lamp. … The Red Wings and Mountaineers do it all over again tonight at 7:30 at the Eagle Ice Arena.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.