Blanchette plays charity game against Boston legends

14 years ago

An original Hodgdon-Houlton Black Hawks player had an experience of a lifetime on April 24 at the Alfond Arena.
Ryan Blanchette, son of Tim and Kathy Blanchette of Hodgdon, skated against former Boston Bruin greats like NHL Hall-of-Fame defensemen Ray Bourque and Brad Park, along with Rick Middleton and Terry O’Reilly. Other former Bruins were goalie Reggie Lemelin, Bob Miller, Nevin Markwart, Gary Doak, Bruce Crowder, Bruce Shoebottom, Guy Larose and goalie Cleon Daskalakis in a benefit hockey game.
“I’m not sure initially how the game happened at UMO,” said Blanchette. “I did get to meet all of them before the game. It was surreal in a way. You always have a chance to meet someone like Bourque, Park, Sweeney, or O’Reilly at an autograph session or something, but to spend time with them in the locker room was beyond anything I thought would ever happen.”
Proceeds of the game went to the Junior Black Bears youth hockey organization.
Blanchette played on the Third Watch team against the former Bruins, which consisted of public safety personnel, EMTs, firefighters, nurses, members of the military and policemen, along with ringers such as former University of Maine All-American Jean-Yves Roy, Black Bear women’s assistant hockey coach Karine Senecal and former Maine women’s head coach Dan Lichterman.
“They wanted a team that would have a good time so our team was thought of since we have played in many games to raise money for different charities,” Blanchette added.
The game was attended by as many as 400 fans, including Blanchette’s parents.
“I had a great time playing against the Bruins Legends, but one of the best parts about getting to play them was doing it in front of my parents,” Blanchette said. “I only had the opportunity growing up to see a few of these guys play. Not to date my parents, but for my dad especially, a couple of the players were people he looked up to when he was playing/coaching hockey. It was a very cool experience. I never in my dreams thought I was going to have a chance to be a part of.”
Everyone in the arena was treated to a few antics in a light-hearted, entertaining 14-13 goalfest won by the Bruin Legends. The fans also had a chance to see former Bruins exhibit their skills that put them at the top of the NHL.
“It was quite something to go face-to-face, chirping Terry O’Reilly after making a save on him,” Blanchette said. “It was all in good humor, but it’s a position I would have never dreamed to be in. It was awesome. It was like a dream come true.”
Blanchette was the first Hodgdon High School player on Houlton-Hodgdon’s first-year cooperative  Black Hawks hockey team.
“It is great to see that program still going,” he added. “It’s such a fun sport and if kids treat it right, work hard, and keep an open mind it can take them a long ways in life.”
Blanchette, who is still playing hockey now 22 years later, is goalie on two men’s teams in the Orono/Brewer area. Last year,  he was goalie coach for the UMO men’s club hockey team.
Blanchette, who usually skates for the Third Watch squad, played goalie for this particular event, as organizers wanted to have two goalies.
Playing against Bruin Legends, Blanchette confirmed the underlying message taught by his parents and former coaches.
“It’s a game. You don’t have to be the best, the youngest or the toughest to play it,” he said. “That all helps, but its about having a good time, and enjoying yourself. To see men, who have played at the highest level, on the ice skating just enjoying the game for what its worth, was something that proves if you really love something you will do it and not just for the rewards. I also took away from playing with them that they all definitely still have it.”