SUN Hockey Pool

Laughing like kids

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:48 AM ET

Glenn Anderson can no longer accelerate to warp speed and leave wind-burned opponents in his ice chips.

He doesn't disregard his own safety and crash the net like a kamikaze pilot anymore, either.

He's getting old. And, like all NHL oldtimers, the trademark characteristics that made him a hero of the day 20 years ago have long since withered with age.

He isn't as fast as the new breed, isn't as strong, isn't as fit and doesn't make nearly the money.

But there's one thing he and the rest of the greybeards can still do better than any player in the modern era.

Laugh like kids.

"Guys used to smile when they played, you could tell they were enjoying it," said the 44-year-old six-time Stanley Cup champion. "You never see guys smile on the ice anymore. You never even see them smile in the dressing room. It's all work and no play."

FROM EAR TO EAR

Not tonight, it isn't. Anderson will be grinning from ear to ear when he returns to Rexall Place for the first time in ages, as a headliner with the Oldtimers Hockey Challenge Tour.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I'm looking forward to this whole tour.

"We're going to raise some funds for charity and hopefully remind people what the game should be about."

Who better to refresh our memories than some of the game's most indelible personalities - Guy Lafleur, whose style and flair rivalled his amazing talent, Tiger Williams, the charismatic all-time penalty minute leader, Lanny McDonald, French Connection centre Gilbert Perrault and, of course, Anderson, the free-spirited speedster who stuck more overtime knives in Oiler opponents that any player who ever wore the jersey.

They don't make 'em like that anymore.

"Now they're all robots," said Anderson. "You dump it in and go get it, and if you don't get possession on the dump in you get back and set up the trap. It's the same old story, game in and game out. Up and down your wing, stick with your man. You have two or three guys who score the goals and the rest ..."

The rest? It's their job to make sure nothing exciting happens.

"We were watching a tape of the Canucks-Rangers Cup final in 1994. Man, was that exciting," said Anderson, who played 845 games in Oilers colours. "You're so used to watching the left-wing lock for the Islanders and the trap for the Devils that you forget how good those games used to be. It was back and forth, run and gun. (Canucks goalie) Kirk McLean had close to 60 shots that game. It was unbelievable."

But Anderson, who retired in 1996, doesn't miss the hockey as much as he misses the teammates. That's why he jumped at the chance to join the Oldtimers.

"This gives you a chance to get together and get caught up with guys you haven't seen in a long time. It's rare that you get an opportunity like this. Even guys who are scouts and coaches, you just don't get that same feel you did when you were a player.

GETTING CAUGHT UP

"And if you do have a reunion or anniversary of some type, like the Heritage Classic, there really isn't any time to just sit around with the guys. You spend more time talking to the media and signing autographs than you do getting caught up with your friends from the past. When you do get a chance, they are moments in time that you have to cherish."

Still, despite all he's accomplished in the game, the Heritage Classic will stand as one of his best hockey memories.

"That was cold, but absolutely, there's no doubt about it," he said. "Kevin (Lowe) and Cal (Nichols) put on a great show. And it was great to have the Montreal Canadiens. You couldn't have asked for two better teams, it turned out really nice."

It's hard to imagine the young-at-heart Anderson coming back as an Oldtimer, but get used to it, he says, because there's no hiding from Father Time.

"You know when you're old," he laughed. "Gravity takes over. And then you start forgetting things. It's like Bill Cosby says: 'Your brain must be in your butt because every time you sit down you remember what you got up to do.' "


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