Gagner turns back clock

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Dave Gagner wanted to be clear about one thing.

There would be no comeback, no matter how well he played.

It didn't matter that the 44-year-old made his first competitive appearance in 10 years and that he scored his first two goals in a decade.

"No, no, no, no free agent contract," he chuckled before the game. "I want to get in shape, but not that much in shape."

Gagner was a surprise in the London Pro Knights lineup in last night's opening game of the Euro Can Cup.

Before the game, he was asked what he'd do if he scored three goals. "I'll be happy with three shifts," he laughed.

He did a lot more than that, scoring two goals and being named player of the game in a 7-2 win over the Linz Black Wings at the John Labatt Centre.

After the game, he was laughing for a different reason.

"It was surreal," he said. "I was just trying to play simple and not embarrass myself, to tell you the truth. After the first goal I started giggling and after the second, I was wondering, 'What's going on here?' "

It was a big night for the Gagners, with son Sam scoring a pair of goals as well. Brandon Prust, Matt Clarke and Marc Pouliot had the others.

Brad Purdie and Daniel Oberkofter scored for the Austrian club team.

Gagner was an assistant coach with the London Knights two years ago. He is now director of player development for the Vancouver Canucks.

"Sam sort of challenged me in the summer. We were on the ice together and he said, 'You look OK. Why don't you see if you can get in shape and see what we can do with it,' " said Dave Gagner, who lost weight and began lifting weights. "I talked to Pat (coach Curcio) about skating with the team and he said 'Sure.' The last couple of days Pat said, 'You know what, let's give it a shot.'

"But I didn't want to take any focus away from anything else," Gagner added.

Gagner, who found out a 4 p.m. yesterday he would play, played 946 NHL games and scored 318 goals and 401 assists. He retired 10 years ago at the age of 34.

Gagner looked like the same guy who for years kept scoring goals.

His first he buried midway up the net with a quick wrist shot. On the second, he took a short pass from Sam and snapped a shot to the top corner of the net.

"It was a pretty big thrill for me," Sam said. "I was pretty young when he retired and I only remember a little bit of him playing and from watching the highlights."

Curcio promised the tournament would provide some surprises and entertainment and it did that.

There was a flavour of what European hockey is all about outside the JLC. Linz brought along a number of supporters. There were about 40 of them outside partaking in the beer garden, singing and chanting.

They carried that into the JLC, waving flags, blowing horns, chanting their team's name long before the game started and they never wavered, no matter how bad the score got.

It was as if a soccer match had broken out in a hockey rink.

The Black Hawks looked jet-lagged early in the game and never did find their stride.

"It was great for Game 1, the fans, the action, the beer tent," Curcio said.

The Knights were missing a lot of players expected to be in the lineup, including Dylan Hunter, John Carlson, Michael Del Zotto, Kyle Quincy and Marc Methot.

Carlson and Del Zotto are heading to NHL camps this week. Quincy was hurt and Methot was told by the Columbus Blue Jackets they weren't thrilled with his participation. Several NHL teams weren't excited about their players participating. As more information came forward about the nature of the tournament, NHL teams were worried about competitive nature of the event.

The Knights don't play again until Friday when they play Zug, Switzerland, expected to be the best team in the tournament.

Zug plays Munich, Germany, tonight at 7:30 p.m.


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