BY DON SCOTT
Former Hershey Bear players will be returning to Chocolate Town as part of the activities around the Sunday, January 20th Outdoor Classic hockey game in Hersheypark Stadium, between the Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
On the day before, Saturday, January 19 at 3 p.m., a Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni squad will take on a Bears Alumni squad being put together by Freddy Cassivi and Dave Parro.
“Everybody we’ve contacted is excited about coming back for this game, but there are still some who aren’t sure because of their schedule,” Parro said. “Those who we’re sure about are Dave Fenyves, Mark Lofthouse, Tim Tookey, Christian Matte, Don Biggs, Ross Fitzpatrick, Lou Franceschetti, Ray Allison, Louie Robitaille, Mike McHugh, Brian Dobbin, Mark Freer, Mike Gaul, Freddy and myself.
“What we wanted was a mixture of guys, past and present, who are retired, so the fans will get to see players who they haven’t seen in years,” continued Parro. “We’re also hoping to get Willie Marshall and Ralph Keller to serve as coaches.”
When questioned about what shape his team will be in, Parro said: “Several of the guys have been playing with the Flyers Alumni team and I know ‘Biggsy’ and ‘Fenner’ are coaching youth hockey so they’ve been getting some ice time.
“I think the last time McHugh put on skates was when we played the Wilkes-Barre alumni about 3-4 years ago,” Parro added. “Lofthouse still plays quite a bit, but ‘Tooks’ has had knee problems and isn’t quite sure if he can play, but wants to give it a try. I’m sure all the guys, for one game, will give their all.”
“The best part for us is getting together and telling stories, because nobody will be going out to embarrass the other team. I think it’ll be a close game, might even have to go to a shootout, but just to be able to get out and mingle with everyone and the crowd is why the former players come back.
“The main thing fans need to keep in mind is there will be a lot of changes in what they remember how we looked then and now. I know there’ll be guys I won’t recognize. Back when our Cup team had its 20-year reunion, I didn’t recognize Harvie Pocza. There’ll also be people I never met before, because we played at different times, but I can assure everyone it will be a blast. The pace of the game will be a little slow, but it’ll be a fun time for everyone.”
Officials for the event will also see familiar faces returning, although one of them is not retired according to Parro.
“There is a possibility Paul Devorski will be one of the refs and Rich Zerbe as a linesman,” said Parro. “I don’t think there will be too many whistles, so it doesn’t matter who shows up.”
Weather is always a concern in a venture like, this but as long as it doesn’t rain the playing conditions should be good.
“As far as that,” Parro said, “Devo said when he worked the Washington-Pittsburgh game it started to rain a little and that kept the puck from sliding and softened the ice. Anything but rain will be OK.”
What makes this game even more fun than other alumni games is that all the players are returning to the very beginning of their careers by playing outdoors.
“About 10 years ago I played an outdoor alumni game in Reading on a baseball field,” Parro recalled, “and when I played in Hershey we practiced on the Milton Hershey outdoor rink that didn’t have a roof. As a kid, of course, we all grew up playing on outdoor ice, so going back to that is a great experience for all of us.”