(Photo Credit: Gayle Troiani/BNG Productions, LLC)

By Gayle Troiani | Follow me on Twitter @LadyBruinsFan

The atmosphere at Warrior Ice Arena was a little different on Saturday afternoon. The current NHL Boston Bruins players had already finished their morning skate before their match-up against the Colorado Avalanche, the Coaching Symposium had wrapped up, but the arena was filled with fans donning black and gold, waiting for the Boston Bruins Alumni to faceoff against the Warrior for Life Fund in the Nathan Hardy Memorial Game.

The Warrior All-Stars beat the Bruins Alumni last year, so incoming President Frank Simonetti decided to call in some reinforcements. Former Captain Zdeno Chara and fellow defenseman Kevan Miller debuted for the Alumni skating alongside Hall of Famer Raymond Bourque and former teammate Adam McQuaid.

“It’s an absolute honor,” Chara said of being paired with Bourque. “I’m looking forward to it. He’s such a legend for the sport, city, and organization. It’s a privilege and honor to be on the same team with so many guys that played for so many years. I’m very humble about it.”

When asked how he felt about being the rookie, Chara said he didn’t like that word but did like the fact he was considered one of the young fellas on the ice for the game.

Chara said he didn’t know how he would feel being on the ice for the game because he had not skated since his last game on April 29, 2022, but hadn’t discovered any unknown injuries since hanging up his skates. Bourque, however, said he and his son Chris skated at Hockey Town USA in Saugus on Tuesday in preparation for the game and hoped he didn’t let his teammates down.

“I’m turning 62 this month,” Bourque said. “It’ll be fun. I hope their expectations aren’t too high on my game. Mine is certainly high for their game. Hopefully, they don’t disappoint, but it’ll be fun to be a part of it. We’ll have some good laughs.”

Along with skating with Chara on the same defensive pairing, Bourque was looking forward to playing with Chris for the first time in a game setting.

“I remember way back in the day how he just enjoyed coming to the Garden and skating with the guys and being part of that a little bit,” he said. “So to play an alumni game like this together will be fun.”

The younger Bourque grew up in Boston, attending Cushing Academy and Boston University before going pro; he said he has finally made Boston his home after being gone for the past 17 years of his professional career. When he retired last year, Bourque said he and his father started thinking about playing together for the Alumni.

“It’s pretty incredible how good he still is,” Chris Bourque said of his father. “He doesn’t really seem like he’s lost a step. He thinks he has, but he hasn’t. I still think he looks pretty good out there.”

Miller was excited to be with some former teammates back on the ice. Still, more importantly, it was about the charities Warrior for Life Fund and Fisher House that Miller decided to fly in from Utah to participate.

“I have a relationship with each one individually and to have them all together pulling in one direction is awesome,” Miller said. “They all do just unbelievable work for veterans, their families, Gold Star families, active duty guys. To have them all work in conjunction is huge.”

Miller mentioned he had a wager going with former teammate Brad Marchand that he would score a goal in the game. Miller did not, and the statement he read on NESN was Marchand-inspired.

Jeff McGovern laced up the skates for the Warrior for Life Fund in the game, but in last year’s competition, McGovern played for the Bruins Alumni and skated alongside Ray Bourque on the blue line.

“Last time I got to play with Bourque as a D partner, which is unbelievable,” McGovern said. “This year, it was pretty surreal to see Chara coming down on me one-on-one. I was like, oh my god. It was awesome.”

McGovern has been playing hockey since he was six and said the Warrior for Life Fund program is a fantastic resource for military men and women to relieve stress.

“We’re always gone. We’re gone all the time. The only constant we have when we come home is to play hockey,” McGovern explained. “We play hockey with the guys that we haven’t seen in a while. I get guys who have never played hockey before out there, and they love it.”

Warrior Captain Ryan Croley said the partnership with Warrior for Life Fund and the Bruins Alumni started five years ago when Simonetti took a trip to Virginia Beach.

“We connected like you wouldn’t believe,” Croley said. “It’s been just a great relationship for the past couple of years. We couldn’t be more proud, more happy to be here.”

The Bruins Alumni may have won the game 6-4, led by two goals by Mark Mowers, but the real winner of the game was that the game raised $108 thousand for the Warrior for Life Fund and the Fisher House.

The Bruins Alumni will be back in action on December 18 for the Matt Light Foundation at Warrior Ice Arena. For more information, visit the Boston Bruins Alumni website.