Operation Hat Trick: NHL Stars Raise Money for Sandy Victims Despite Lockout

By Kristin Tullo (@KToools)

For Andy Greene it was a “no brainer” to join Operation Hat Trick when he was asked to take part in a benefit game that would raise money for those affected by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey. Greene, along with 31 other NHL players, including two New Jersey teammates David Clarkson and Martin Brodeur, played in front of a sold out crowd at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday night.

Though the game’s main purpose was to help a community that needed it the most, Operation Hat Trick also became an outlet for frustrated hockey fans to have just one night of hockey, featuring some of their favorite players and some of the best talent in the league. Fans of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers poured into the stands, with a scattering of New Jersey Devils fans filling in as well for a once-in-a-lifetime All Star-type event, all the while voicing their dislike for the NHL lockout.

It was Team NY versus Team NJ, in a goaltending matchup that was last seen in the Eastern Conference Finals, with Martin Brodeur at one end and Henrik Lundqvist at the other.

“Marty’s in a tough spot there,” defenseman Andy Greene said after the game, “Half Rangers and half Philly fans. Those aren’t his two biggest fans.” With Rangers fans refusing to show mercy on the veteran goalie in an exhibition game that was about dollars and not goals, they weren’t about to let the opportunity to chant “Mar-ty” pass them by when he let up four goals on just ten shots in the opening period.

Brodeur, however, took it all in stride. “We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout. We are doing this to raise a lot of money for something that devastated New Jersey and New York and other areas,” the veteran goaltender said after a game in which he surrendered ten goals and was taunted more than celebrated throughout the 60 minutes of play.

The fans weren’t the only ones doing the taunting, though. The players also allowed themselves to have some fun on the ice, even at the cost of Team NY’s coach and MTV reality Star, Vinny Guadagnino. After finally putting the puck past Lundqvist in the second period, the players on the ice at the time of the goal for Team NJ lined up in front of the opposition’s bench and pumped their fists, mocking the Jersey Shore star who was booed numerous times during the event.

After seeing two months of their season slip by without a single game played, the fans in attendance ate up all of the goals, the breakaways and the big saves, giving off an electric atmosphere that made it apparent just how passionate they are about the game. They even provoked some emotion out of Team NJ’s captain, Scott Hartnell, as the Philadelphia forward admitted to getting choked up when all 10,972 fans stood on their feet chanting “We want hockey”, as their hockey heroes saluted them at center ice at the conclusion of the game won by Team NY by the score of 10-6.  It was one of the many chants that echoed throughout Boardwalk Hall that united the fans that usually find themselves as bitter rivals.

“There’s only 11,000 people in there but it felt like 22,000,” Montreal Canadien PK Subban said of the atmosphere. “You can just sense that they are craving it. Craving for hockey.”

They played chuck-a-puck, they cheered for goals that meant nothing as if they just watched their team win a Stanley Cup, and they raised money for a good cause, but this morning when fans of the NHL woke up, the one-night-only event was over and they were back to the reality of asking when and if a real season will begin. It may have been an escape for a few hours, but it also gave them a taste of something bigger that they can’t wait to have back.

Team NY: Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Richards, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ville Leino, Daniel Alfredsson, Matt Martin, Jeff Halpern, James Neal, Taylor Pyatt, Arron Asham, Marc Staal, Dan Girardo, Brian Boyle, Steve Eminger, Mike Komisarek. Coach: Vinny Guadagnino

Team NJ: Martin Brodeur, Scott Hartnell, David Clarkson, Jody Shelley, Wayne Simmonds, Simon Gagne, Steven Stamkos, Daniel Carcillo, Justin Williams, Steve Downie, James vanRiemsdyke, Kimmo Kimonen, Braydon Coburn, PK Subban, John Carlson, Andy Greene. Coach: Rick Tocchett.

All proceeds will be donated to Empire Relief Fund, NJ Hurricane Relief Fund and American Red Cross.

The total amount of money raised by Operation Hat Trick has yet to be released and will probably be announced following the closing of  game worn jerseys, up for auction until December 2nd.


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