Vernon’s Pirahnas Wednesday/Sunday night year-round hockey group had a pretty big fish on the ice with them.
NHL Hall of Famer Denis Savard, owner of four Stanley Cup rings, skated with the Pirahnas at Vernon’s OTR Rink Wednesday.
“I’ve known this gentleman named Steve through work for about 15 years, he does business in Chicago, and is good friends with Savard,” said Pirahna Art Corrigan, who helped arrange Savard’s 70-minute stint on the ice. “Steve has visited here and told Denis it’s a pretty amazing place. Savard said he’d never been here, only to Vancouver, when he was playing. This time, he came with Steve as a surprise.”
Savard played in 1,196 regular season NHL games with the Chicago Black Hawks, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. He scored 473 career goals and amassed 1,338 points. He won a Stanley Cup as a player with the Canadiens in 1993, and added three more in 2010, 2013 and 2015 as an ambassador with the Black Hawks.
Savard was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000, had his No. 18 retired by Chicago in 1998 and was named one of the 100 greatest NHL players in 2017.
Corrigan got wind of Savard’s appearance through Steve, who called saying he wanted to play on a Wednesday night during his visit, but he needed hockey gear other than skates.Corrigan, who works in Spallumcheen for Maax Bath Inc. in materials management at the fibreglass plant, met Steve for lunch at an Armstrong pub.
Savard was with him.
“I asked him if he wanted to play but he said, ‘No, he was injured. Had tendinitis.’ And I left it at that,” said Corrigan.
The gear was, in fact, for Savard, who used Corrigan’s extra set. He had with him his skates and his famous Chicago No. 18 jersey with his name on it. Savard signed the sweater and gave it to Corrigan after the on-ice session.
Savard played 50 per cent on the ice in Vernon for one Pirahnas group, and spent the second half with the other.
“On one of his goals, he had a breakaway, did his famous Savard spin-o-rama and beat goalie Tony Smith,” beamed Corrigan, referring to Savard’s signature move to avoid a would-be defender. “The place erupted on that one. After his hat trick goal, Savard rode his stick down the centre of the ice like Vancouver Canucks forward Tiger Williams did when he scored a goal in Toronto against his former team, the Maple Leafs.
Half the players on the Pirahnas got word earlier in the day they’d be playing with an NHL legend, the other had no idea. As word got out, the stands at OTR kept filling.
“Funny how quickly the word spread as we had a gallery watching our game and that never happens,” laughed longtime Pirahna Dan Odenbach on his Facebook page, suitably impressed by Savard.
“The Hall of Famer is a true class act as he played half the game with one team and half with the other. He treated us to several of his famous spin-o-ramas. Highlights for me were sharing a two-on-one with him and, despite me being a germaphobe, lending him my flip-flops for the shower.”
Corrigan was equally amazed by Savard’s generous nature.
“He was incredible,” said Corrigan. “He told me to let guys know to bring whatever materials they want autographed, he posed for pictures with kids, and he posed for individual photos with each player that was on the ice. I’ll send him the photos and he’ll autograph them and send them back.
“It was a night we will not soon forget.”