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Alumni weekend full of hockey festivities

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

File photo

File photo

Alumni weekend has arrived.

Familiar faces belonging to former local and NHL legends alike will be in Portage la Prairie this weekend as the Terriers and Bruins alumni prepare to clash Friday night as just one of the many events taking place this weekend honouring the Portage Terriers’ 50th birthday.

“We’re stoked,” says Rotary Club of Portage la Prairie’s public relations director, Preston Meier. “We’ve had a strong group of volunteers that have put a lot of hard work in and a lot of planning into the event to hopefully make it one of the best weekends Portage will ever remember.”

Boston Bruins alumni arrive Friday afternoon and will mingle with community members at a meet and greet prior to taking to the ice at Stride Place. And although they're no strangers to alumni tours across North America, having the former NHLers square off against alumni from a local junior club is a rarity. 

“A lot of times we play the firemen or the police officers, first responders,” says Al Iafrate, who logged nearly 800 career NHL games during stints with the Leafs, Bruins, Caps and Sharks. “It’s not very often we play local (alumni). There might be a guy here or there as part of the local legends… but a lot of those guys will probably be the age of our sons,” he laughed.

Following Friday’s sold out meet and greet, the Bruins and Terriers take to the ice at Stride Place at 7 p.m., and amongst the former MJHL and NHL greats will be some familiar faces from the community. An auction was held where individuals had the opportunity to bid for a spot on the ice or behind the bench. Portagers Grant Arbuckle, Preston Meier and Kevin Knox will be sharpening up their skates ahead of game time while Mike Panko, Stan Killam and Ray Pelletier will oversee coaching and equipment manager duties. 

“We've had a lot of support. It`s an exciting time right now and the whole weekend will be really good,” Meier adds. “We've got a number of locals that'll be involved in this not only with the Terrie alumni but with the Bruin alumni.”

The brave individuals who returned to represent the Portage Terriers better come ready to play, because when the puck drops Friday night the Bruins will be coming out firing. “Once you get out on the ice the competitive juices always come flowing back. Hockey is a sport that’s always for fun until you start losing,” Iafrate jokes. 

Following the Friday evening festivities, the action continues right into Saturday with an autograph signing at Craig Dunn Motor City followed by the Terriers’ annual Sportsman dinner where the Bruin alumni will be the guests of honour.

Iafrate, who was selected 4th overall by the mighty Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1984 NHL entry draft, enjoyed an NHL career spanning 14 years. During that time, the Dearborn, Mich., native tallied 152 goals and 311 assists in 799 games played. And when given the opportunity, never passes up a chance to lace up the skates during alumni events.

“I do as many as I can, whenever I get an opportunity, schedule permitting, I participate,” adds the former NHLer. “But most importantly, because you were considered a good hockey player, it gives you the ability to help do something good in a positive way for whatever charity it may be is always gratifying.”

Tickets for both the alumni game and Sportsman dinner are available. Alumni tickets are available at Stride Place prior to puck drop while those interested in the dinner can contact any Rotarian or Terrier board member.  

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