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Published: Monday, 2/18/2013

Alumni contest evokes memories of Sports Arena

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Toledo's Nick Parillo takes a shot in Sunday's alumni game against Fort Wayne at the Huntington Center. The Toledo alumni won 9-8 in a shootout as Parillo got the game-winning goal. Toledo's Nick Parillo takes a shot in Sunday's alumni game against Fort Wayne at the Huntington Center. The Toledo alumni won 9-8 in a shootout as Parillo got the game-winning goal.
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The last goal, the winning goal in the shootout that decided Sunday afternoon’s Fort Wayne-Toledo alumni hockey game at the Huntington Center, was scored for the home team by Nick Parillo. That’s about as appropriate as it gets.

The last goal ever scored at the old Sports Arena before they melted that sweet little sheet of ice and brought in the wrecking ball was scored by Nick Parillo.

Symmetry, you might say.

Parillo is why they called it an alumni game. Andre Vanopdenbosch and Ted Tucker made it an old-timers game. They are 65 and 63 years old, respectively, and Andre — we can type Vanopdenbosch only so many times — spent his lone season in Toledo, 1969-70, on the final edition of the Blades.

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Andre, who lives north of Detroit, came equipped with a scrapbook that included his Blades contract, a back-in-the-day newspaper clipping featuring a picture of him and teammate Greg Jablonski, who played in Toledo for a decade and was an alumni coach Sunday, an old game program vs. Fort Wayne, appropriately enough, and plenty more.

“It’s so awesome to be out there skating at my age,” the right winger said. “Everybody made me feel so welcome.”

It was a genial affair, although there was a competitive edge that never dies and proof that stick work and savvy skating don’t either, give or take a little speed and reaction. But you should have seen Tucker, one of the goalies on that amazing Goaldiggers Turner Cup team of 1974-75, stack the pads old-school style to deny a breakaway goal in the first period.

The teams played to a 7-7 tie before Dave Falkenberg and Parillo netted shootout goals to give Toledo the win.

Parillo, who still lives in town, added this memory to his final Sports Arena goal.

“This was a neat day because there may not be a nicer place than this to play hockey,” he said of the Huntington Center. “But I sure do miss that old barn across the river. It was one of a kind and if you played there you learned all its quirks.

“There were weird bounces off the boards and that’s what happened that night. The goalie from Cincinnati went behind the net and I just knew the puck was going to bounce out front. And there I was.”

Parillo said he was just happy to hang out with some of Toledo’s hockey legends — “I knew the names, now I can put faces with them” — but he did more than hang out at the end as the coaches kept him in reserve for the final attempt in the shootout.

“I don’t know about that,” he said laughing. “I think they just ran out of guys.”

The Walleye, meanwhile, had plenty of everything and made it a doubleheader sweep over Fort Wayne in the regular ECHL game. Three unanswered goals in the third period broke it open for a 6-3 Toledo win.

Like most minor league teams, the Walleye have had three rosters — one coming, one playing, and one going — since the end of the NHL lockout.

Coach Nick Vitucci knew it was likely to happen, though, so he cut back on affiliated players and locked in a core of veterans.

Two of them are Randy Rowe, who has been around since early in the season, and Nino Musitelli. And they scored the first two goals in the third period.

The Walleye have about 20 games left and are positioned to advance to the playoffs in April.

For the alumni, though, it will be awhile between games.

Vitucci, who took a turn between the pipes during the legends game, is already looking ahead to Dec., 2014, when the Walleye will host the ECHL’s first Winterfest, including an outdoor game at Fifth Third Field.

“Nick has mentioned it to me, and that would really be something if we [the alumni] could be involved in a game then, too,” said Tucker. “That would really be old-school, outdoor hockey. I wouldn’t want to miss that. I’ll be there somehow, I promise.”

The oldies would be coldies, but still goodies.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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