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Monday, December 22, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 1/23/2005

75 Diggers back for encore

BY DAN SAEVIG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ted Tucker, who organized yesterday s reunion, wears his 1970s goalie mask. He was the winning goalie in the 1975 Turner Cup Game 7 for the Goaldiggers in Saginaw. Ted Tucker, who organized yesterday s reunion, wears his 1970s goalie mask. He was the winning goalie in the 1975 Turner Cup Game 7 for the Goaldiggers in Saginaw.
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Thomas Paine was wrong.

You can go home again.

The Toledo Goaldiggers 1975 Turner Cup championship team proved that yesterday afternoon at the Sports Arena.

Almost 30 years have passed since The Miracle on Main Street, a Cinderella season that saw a Toledo expansion team in the International Hockey League pull off what truly was a miracle, finishing 34-38-4 during the regular season before upsetting Columbus, Dayton and Saginaw in the playoffs.

Ian MacPhee came back to relive the memories of that year. So did Don Westbrooke and Donny Craig. Michel Laurendeau and Darwin Mott were there, too.

As were the fans. For just the second time this season, the Sports Arena was sold out. Sprinkled heavily throughout the crowd of 5,361 were green and gold Goaldiggers jackets, player photo buttons, jerseys and hats.

There were plenty of smiles, too.

On and off the ice.

It didn t matter that the Detroit Red Wings alumni team with memorable names like Igor Larionov and Mickey Redmond had little problem with Toledo s old-timers, rolling to an easy 9-3 win in the 55 minute, running clock game.

Former Toledo star Jim McCabe carries the puck into the Detroit zone in the Alumni Game last night at the Sports Arena. Former Toledo star Jim McCabe carries the puck into the Detroit zone in the Alumni Game last night at the Sports Arena.
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It didn t matter that there was more gray on the ice than you d find at a sweatshirt manufacturer s convention or that a Jared Subway diet might be fitting for the post-game spread.

The bench needs to be big enough, John Martin said. There s a lot of wide bodies on this team now.

What mattered was that the team coached by the late Ted Garvin was together one last time.

Only Willie Trognitz, who along with Paul Tantardini and Doug Mahood made up the brawling line dubbed Murder, Inc. wasn t there. He s home in Thunder Bay, Ont., recovering from a viral infection.

We ve changed, Mahood said. But we re still the same.

Well, almost.

I m not the ugliest one anymore, Mahood said.

For a few hours at least, it was as if Father Time had gone to sleep as the team exchanged the kind of jabs they used to throw on and off the ice.

Juri [Kudrasovs] is so cheap he s still got gas in his car from when he left Toledo, Mahood said.

Responded Kudrasovs, Mahood s former roommate and team captain: He s lying. Like usual.

Doug used to cook these Mahoody burgers. He thought they were awful good. He was half right.

They laughed about what was then and what is today.

Badsy looks like Ted Garvin now, Mahood said of teammate Jerry Badiuk who has gained a pound or two since his playing days.

The game plan against the Wings was simple.

We were going to have Craig Stamp shadow Igor Larionov, reunion organizer and goaltender Ted Tucker said. And Jerry Badiuk, since he was one of our trainers, was to take the Labbatt Blue down to Mickey Redmond to slow down his shot.

Bryan Smolinski, a Genoa native and NHL player who grew up watching the Goaldiggers, helps his old idols last night. Bryan Smolinski, a Genoa native and NHL player who grew up watching the Goaldiggers, helps his old idols last night.
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What is it that s said about the best laid plans of mice and men?

They didn t need to slow my shot, Redmond said with a laugh. If I could hit the broadside of a a barn, Igor would be leading the league in scoring.

Larionov scored once, only to receive a smattering of boos from the pro-reunion crowd that wanted their heroes to pull off one more Miracle on Main Street.

I had a breakaway, Larionov said with a smile. Should I go back? But was this great or what? What a special day for this community.

Toledo had one ringer on its roster. Locked-out National Hockey League player Bryan Smolinski, a Genoa native, rifled a top-shelf wrister, supplementing the two goals scored by Kudrasovs.

I remember every one of these guys, Smolinski said. My cousin and I used to be Pierre Chagnon and Teddy Tucker in nets. I appreciate these guys. You can see the love they have, the glow in their eyes for what they ve been through.

Smolinski wasn t the only one who appreciated being part of history. Storm coach Nick Vitucci went from stall to stall, getting the 75 champs to autograph a circa-1970s Goaldiggers promotional stick that he picked up on E-bay last year for $5.

Once a hero, always a hero.

Kent Douglas, who won three Stanley Cups with Toronto before joining the Diggers at age 39 was quite the object of affection.

As one attractive woman approached the team bench, a bystander pointed out that she was trying to get the defenseman s attention.

What did I do? Douglas said.

The fan didn t know but pointed out that the lady was cute.

I can tell, Douglas, 68, said. I may be getting old but my eye sight isn t that bad.

Neither were the memories.

As the game came to a close, there was time for the Goaldiggers to take one final lap around the ice. As fans stood in appreciation, the players lifted their sticks one final time.

They were saying good-bye.

Contact Dan Saevig at: dsaevig@theblade.com



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