Quinn, Bure and NHL alum band together at gala

Pat Quinn, journalist Russ Conway and Boston Marathon bombing survivors honored at emotional NHL alumni event.

One theme rang through above all else at the NHL Alumni dinner in Toronto last night: brotherhood.

Man of the Year recipient Pat Quinn, in a heart-felt acceptance speech, said that when the competition dies, and players retire, everyone becomes teammates; that they all have each other’s backs. “I’ve done 5,000 speeches,” said a clearly emotional Quinn, “but I’ve never felt like I do (tonight).”

It’s an important message to remember and a credo to live by for a group that engages in a dangerous profession and hasn’t always been treated fairly. To underscore the point, Ted Lindsay – one of the instrumental figures in the establishment of a players association and a champion of pension issues – was praised more than once. And Russ Conway, the venerable Lawrence Eagle-Tribune sports editor who helped expose Alan Eagleson’s fraudulent ways, received the Keith McCreary Seventh Man Award.

The most poignant brotherhood moment of the night, however, came early, when Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arrendondo were given the ‘Ace’ Bailey Award of Courage. Bauman was a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings and Arrendondo – who tragically had lost two sons of his own in recent years – famously and courageously helped save Bauman’s life in the moments after the explosions.

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In something of a surprise, Pavel Bure (whose date on a night of brotherhood was – who else? – Valeri), flew in from Moscow to present Quinn with his honour. Bure said when he was first asked to make the presentation it took only a heartbeat to decide if he wanted to make the trek from Russia for one evening. “I’d fly to the moon and back for the big Irishman,” Bure gushed.

The evening wasn’t all warm and cuddly. Emcee Dennis Hull did some light roasting in typically dry and tasteless fashion. Brother Bobby (not in attendance) was among those who got burned. “Bobby’s dating a homeless woman right now,” Dennis deadpanned. “He loves it. When they’re done dinner, he can drop her off anywhere.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr were also on hand and made brief remarks in support of the retired players.