(Photo Credit: Craig Michaud/ Craig Michaud Photography)

By: Gayle Troiani | Follow me on Twitter @LadyBruinsFan

The Boston Bruins Alumni headed to Skate 3 in Tyngsboro this past Sunday to face off against the Thomas E Smith Foundation for the fourth straight year, and it appears to be turning into not only a grudge match but a true rivalry for the Bruins of yesteryear.

“We got beat here last year, five to four,” Bruins Alumni President Frank Simonetti said. “In a game that was really hard fought. We didn’t want to lose it, and it came right down to the wire. So, we’ve bolstered our line-up a little bit.”

The change to the line-up Simonetti made was adding some youth to the roster, such as Chelmsford native Keith Aucoin, Boston-born Mike Mottau, and former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara since the Alumni was playing in the second half of a back-to-back.

“Joey Mullen, who is 65 years old, is playing like a 30-year-old. I wish I had his energy,” Simonetti laughed. “We used to [play back-to-back] all the time; as our season goes on, we stack more back-to-back games, and for the most part, we have guys interchanging in the line-up, but there’s probably eight guys that are playing today that played yesterday. So, we’ll see how that goes. Come Monday, we’ll feel it for sure.”

Event organizer Colin Heneghan said the event raised more than $50,000 for the Thomas E Smith Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to better the lives of individuals and families affected by and living with paralysis. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event are donated to those living with paralysis.

The Alumni got the best of the Smith Foundation, winning the game 8-5, led by Aucoin and Steve Leach, who each had two goals for the Bruins. Leach’s first goal of the game was a gift from Don Garcia, according to Bruins Alumni TV host John Horrigan.

“That’s why you bring your own referee to the games,” Horrigan said with a chuckle to the crowd of more than 900 fans.

The Bruins Alumni have been playing games like this for more than 50 years, and though the older and in the crowd would be able to name every player on the roster, some of the younger fans only recognize more recently retired players, like Chara.

“I think the younger kids root for the laundry, the root for the jersey, and the Bruins’ B,” Simonetti explained. “Maybe their dads or moms will tell them that Reggie Lemelin helped break the Candiens’ curse in the playoffs and took them to the Stanley Cup in ’88.

“They know the Ray Bourques. They know the Zdeno Charas. But for the rest of us, we are just the Bruins playing, and that’s okay because when I was young, I rooted for the team, and you knew the players, but you never thought you would bump into them out in the real world. They don’t look at who’s coming in for the Bs. They just know the Bruins are coming into town, and they are going to root for the laundry.”

The fans knew who Chara was, as did the opposing team. The Smith Foundation skated with a bit more jump when Chara was defending the blue line for the Bruins Alumni, but the former Stanley Cup Champion Norris Trophy winner remembered the game was not for two points in the NHL standings.

“This is all for fun,” Chara laughed. “It’s for the fans especially, and this is such a pleasure to be playing with so many legends and guys who paved the road for many of us a long time ago. For me, it’s an honor to be a part of it.

“There’s nothing that really bothers me on the ice. Sometimes, it gets a little competitive, but that’s okay; that’s the way it should be because the level of the game rises a little bit, and fans can actually see a more upbeat tempo, and it’s all for a good cause.”

After skating in three games, the former captain was gifted with his official Bruins Alumni gear bag, and Chara was ecstatic.

“I was so happy about it. It’s such a beautiful bag,” Chara said. “It has my number and name on it, and honestly, it’s one of the best things I ever got. It’s a very beautiful bag.”

Keith Segee is the practice goalie for the NHL club and one of three players to suit up between the pipes for the Bruins Alumni. He got the call against the Smith Foundation and was thrilled to play behind Chara instead of facing his shots in practice.

“Doing the practice is great. It’s fun,” Segee explained. “But obviously, playing with (Chara), he’s such a Boston icon, legit was a fan of his growing up, and he’s such a humble guy.”

Being one of the Alumni goaltenders is not something to take lightly, though. Segee is aware of how much the team wants to win, and being able to skate with them is an honor.

“Honestly, it’s truly an honor, and they treat me like one of the guys,” Segee said. “They treat me like I am an alumni myself, which I am definitely not. It’s truly amazing, and seeing how well these guys can still play and move the puck is truly amazing.”

The Bruins Alumni will be at the O’Malley Rink in Gloucester on Saturday, January 28, as part of Gloucester’s 400th Anniversary. The roster has not yet been released, but the event sold more than 700 tickets. Face-off is scheduled for 2:00 PM.