Neither Luc Robitaille or Wayne Gretzky laced them up Friday night. Instead the two coached their respective teams in the NHL Alumni/Celebrity outdoor game at Bakersfield College's Memorial Stadium. But their absence from the ice in no way took away from the fun of the night.
"Nobody thought we'd play an outdoor game in Bakersfield in January 40 years ago," Gretzky said after the game. "So this is a bonus."
Nicknamed "the great one", he helped to grow the game of hockey in his time as a player but tonight brought his focus to Bakersfield. "Luc and I always kid about it and tease about hockey in this town but hockey's come so far. (To have) this many people come out for an alumni/celebrity game is pretty nice and I'm sure the kids who are playing in the real game are going to be so excited."
That "real" game between the Condors and the Ontario Reign is still set for Saturday at 6:00 PM despite rain in the forecast. But for some of the players on Friday, the game was as real as it gets.
"This was a cool thing," said Daryl Evans, radio broadcaster for the Los Angeles Kings and retired player. "I think anytime people who have played the game or people in the entertainment world get a chance to come out and play on this kind of stage...it's a special thing."
It was a special night that included celebrities crashing live shots before the game or the showcasing of new found talents, like Fox Sports 1 reporter Jenny Taft who scored a goal and set up two others. "I'm a little intimidated!" she said on being interviewed post game. "I'm getting a taste of what I do for so many people. I heard months ago that Wayne Gretzky was playing...I thought 'What a cool experience to go out and play with some of the best."