ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. | Henrik Lundqvist talked about how much he enjoyed hanging out at a friend’s place on the New Jersey shore. Since Hurricane Sandy, everything changed.
“It’s all gone,” Lundqvist said.
Scott Hartnell rented a shore house in Avalon last summer. The storm filled it with water up to the second floor.
“It definitely hits home,” Hartnell said.
Far more people were affected by Sandy, and that’s why Hartnell, Lundqvist, Brad Richards and company got together for Saturday night’s Operation Hat Trick charity game at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The event raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Sandy relief, with proceeds going to the American Red Cross, Empire State Relief Fund and New Jersey Hurricane Relief Fund.
It’s uncertain exactly how much money was raised, but the sellout crowd of 10,792 was more than happy to see a night of hockey amid the NHL lockout.
“For us it’s easy to come here. We all love to play,” Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. “We’ve been dying to play, so it’s easy for us to just get out here and have some fun out there. And I thought it was actually a pretty good game.”
Team Richards, populated by New York Rangers players and others, beat Team Hartnell, full of Philadelphia Flyers and others, 10-6. Lundqvist made 56 saves.
“The dang Rangers, they got our number, that’s for sure,” Hartnell said.
Ex-Caps forward Jeff Halpern scored a goal, had an assist and joked that his plus-minus was all right, too. Like just about everyone in both locker rooms, he was all smiles after getting a chance to play a game again.
“It was great. It was probably even more so [than expected]. Guys were joking they were actually nervous before the game, playing in front of the crowd and playing good hockey,” Halpern said. “For me it was a blast just to be a playing a game. It had a little bit of a New York vs. Philly feel to it. It was a fun night.”
Halpern said he had a “Holy smokes” reaction when looking at the star-studded lineups. In addition to Lundqvist and Richards, the game had Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, Anaheim Ducks wings Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry, New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos.
Rangers fans sang the goal song familiar to everyone who has seen a game at Madison Square Garden and serenaded Lundqvist with the “Hen-rik” chants. There were some boos and chants to fire commissioner Gary Bettman, but it was a welcome respite from the drudgery of collective bargaining negotiations.
“This was a blast. I think it was really unbelievable. It was chills playing in front of the fans, how passionate they are, the chants they had going,” Stamkos said. “At the end there it was goosebumps. It was really amazing to see the turnout and obviously for all the players here that were involved, it’s really a testament to the kind of class that we have in this league.”
Video of the final few minutes and handshakes: