CAF goaltender offers solid defence against Canucks Alumni

LS Ogle Henry, MARPAC Imaging Services CAF Warriors goaltender CP02 Ken Simoneau makes a save as Canucks Alumni forward Dave ’Tiger’ Williams looks for a rebound during Heroes Hockey 2016 action at the Q Centre on March 6.

LS Ogle Henry, MARPAC Imaging Services
CAF Warriors goaltender CP02 Ken Simoneau makes a save as Canucks Alumni forward Dave ’Tiger’ Williams looks for a rebound during Heroes Hockey 2016 action at the Q Centre on March 6.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

CAF Warriors goalie Chief Petty Officer Second Class Ken Simoneau admits he was nervous and had a few butterflies prior to his memorable night of minding the net in a charity game against a cast of former NHL stars. After all, the highest level of hockey CPO2 Simoneau had ever played at was house league back in his hometown of Baie-Comeau, Que.

But after the first period of the March 6 Heroes Hockey Challenge, it was NHL legends like Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams and Dave Babych who were in awe of the 40-year-old naval electronics sensor operator.

“They [the CAF Warriors] scored the heck out of us in the first half of the game,” said two-time NHL All-Star defenceman Babych. “Their goaltender was amazing. Sometimes you run into good goalies like this in our alumni games and it’s a struggle to figure them out.”

The Warriors, a team selected from players participating in the Canadian Armed Forces Old Timers Hockey Championship held last week in Esquimalt, eventually fell by an 11-7 score line. It was CPO2 Simoneau’s puck stopping skills along with two goals by Warriors forward Sgt Jodie Noseworthy of CFB Edmonton that helped the give the Warriors a 6-3 lead after the first of two 30 minute periods in the game.

Earlier that day CPO2 Simoneau, starting goaltender for CFB Esquimalt’s Tritons Old Timers team, was voted game MVP in the Old Timers tournament opener. Six hours later he was busy frustrating the NHL alumni, stopping forward Kyle Wellwod on a penalty shot and closing the door on scoring opportunities for Williams, Geoff Courtnall and Ty Gretzky among others.

“I’ll just attribute my success to being in the right place at the right time,” said CPO2 Simoneau, who, for his efforts, received an autographed puck from Wellwood after the game. “I’m so glad I was on my game and it worked out for me. It was awesome just to step on the ice and play against world class athletes like this.”

But there were other moments when CPO2 Simoneau admits he was simply outclassed by former NHLers, including one of Wellwood’s power moves to the net where the fleet-footed centre sliced through the Warriors defence and easily backhanded the puck past CPO2 Simoneau and into the roof of the net, for one of his four goals.

But the goals weren’t coming easily for the rest of the Canucks Alumni. That forced Williams, once an infamous enforcer in the NHL during the 1970s and 80s, to dig deep into his bag of tricks in a failed attempt to distract CPO2 Simoneau. Late in the opening period, Williams collided with CPO2 Simoneau and lightly butt-ended him in the mid section; then moments later Williams was at it again, whacking the goaltender’s pads repeatedly with his stick in another attempt to rattle CPO2 Simoneau.

“He wasn’t too happy, and then before a face-off congratulated me for the ‘accidental saves’, as he put it, and also told me to let a few goals in for us and told me ‘I’m gunning for you now’,” chuckled CPO 2 Simoneau. “It was all in good fun though and I’ll cherish that moment forever.”

Unfortunately, for the Warriors, the NHL alumni stepped it up during the second period. CPO2 Simoneau was replaced by SLt Reggie Simmons at the break and the Canucks Alumni then shifted gears in the final 30 minutes to score seven unanswered goals with Wellwood leading the charge and Courtnall tallying two goals and two assists.

“One thing you don’t want to do as a professional is get embarrassed. We beared down in the second half,” said Gary Unger, who once held the NHL’s ironman record after playing 914 consecutive games from Feb. 24, 1968 to Dec. 21, 1979.
Ty Gretzky, the son of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, said a lockeroom speech by Coach Orland Kurtenbach and some inspirational words by Williams’ helped turn things around.

“When I came off the ice after the first period, I said, ‘I’m telling you this [CAF team] is an innate group of highly-trained physically and mentally trained guys and all they want to do is pin it,’” Williams said. “’We’ve got to use our skills, shorten our bench get our best players out on the ice and get our line of Courtnall, Matt Pettinger and Wellwood working together.’”

Williams put his money where his mouth was, converting two quick goals in a one-minute span two minutes into the final period, precipitating his trade-mark ride-the-broom celebration, where Williams puts the stick between his legs as a seat and uses his blade as a rudder to steer himself.

Williams has been a strong Canadian Armed Forces supporter since 2007 after a trip to Afghanistan when he, Bob Probert, Ron Tugnutt, Rejean Houle and Yvon Lambert showed off the Stanley Cup and played a game of ball hockey with Canadian soldiers in the sweltering heat of Kandahar.

Williams has since done multiple overseas tours for the CAF, visiting troops on other deployments to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Oman and Ireland.  

“We are very privileged as athletes, but not very often does any Canadian get a call from their country to go and do something for our brave and devoted men and women in the CAF so that’s why I get involved,” he said. “I’m representing my clan, the hockey clan and other Canadians I’ve met along the road during my lifetime so I feel obligated to do this.”

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