By Ric Duarte, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — I am a sucker for donating money and/or my time to a worthy cause, and I have given my share over the years. This past Saturday and Sunday, I would have gladly paid money to participate in what I had the opportunity to do.

A few months ago my friend Jordi asked if I wanted to play hockey, goal to be exact, in the 2014 NHL Alumni Pro-Am Weekend. My first reaction was, “Do they want a fat, old man playing goal?” Jordi said it doesn’t matter, that it was for charity, and he promised that I would have a blast. So I signed up for it. Monies raised would benefit Boston Children’s Hospital. The hospital is home to the world’s largest research center at a pediatric hospital, making discoveries that benefit both children and adults. Just one area of research they’re leading: concussions and injury prevention.

Philanthropic support will advance critical research into this skyrocketing problem. This was my first time fundraising, and asking for money is not one of the things I do best. However, I raised a nice chunk from my fellow hockey friends and others and headed into the unknown. On March 21, I had the privilege of touring the Boston Children’s Hospital. This was really an amazing tour — and a real eye-opener for me, being that I do not have children and have been lucky enough to not have family that needed the kind of care that these folks give to kids of all ages every day.

For the actual games, This Friday past, there was a draft party with the top fundraising team (Bain Capital) picking the first former Bruins NHLer, which happened to be Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, and it continued on down the line. Saturday, I was placed with the fourth-highest fundraising team and our former NHL player was Rick Middleton.

What a wonderful guy. I was like a little kid as he was a player from the team that I rooted for all my life, and now we were sharing a locker room and he was telling great stories. I loved it, and of course he helped our team to both wins on the day.

You would think that would be enough excitement for one Bruins fan to have in a weekend. Au contraire, friends. Saturday afternoon I was asked — yes, me — to be the goalie for the NHL alumni team in the championship game Sunday afternoon against Bain Capital. Cue the nervousness and butterflies.

I entered the locker room and half the NHLers were there already. It was a very small room and bags of equipment were piled on top of each other in haphazard ways, as there were simply too many people for the room. I introduced myself as their goalie. They all got up and shook my hand and introduced themselves, though not many had to. A few had grown unrecognizable because of the time passed, but I knew who most were.

For an hour and a half, I listened, marveled and smiled as I got dressed, getting “ready for my closeup.” It was riveting. I needed to pinch myself. They were having fun with each other, addressing one another with their nicknames they had while playing. I laughed a lot and as the minutes in the room passed, I became more relaxed.

The game was about to begin and the Bain players were introduced followed by my team, The Former NHL players. Bain still had the rights to their draft pick, Mr. Leetch, but the roster in front of me included, Middleton, Tom Songin, Glen Featherstone, Tom Fergus, Bob Sweeney, Tim Sweeney, Guy Larose, “Beach” Al Pedersen, Steve Leach, Rejean Lemelin, Jason Zent, Scott Young, Craig Janney, David Shaw and Former Hab Mark Napier. Because of being starstruck, I may have missed someone, but you can just imagine my excitement as they were introduced and then hearing my name! This must be a dream. It wasn’t — it was pure fun!

Oh, about the game, Bain jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a tip-in through my five-hole and a snapper from the bottom of the right circle low glove side. The NHLers came back to tie and go ahead, only to see Bain tie it at 4. One of the organizers and former Ottawa Senator Jason Zent put us ahead by a goal, putting his own rebound home after a really good leg save by the Bain goaltender. Bain pulled the goalie and with 29 seconds to play, they tied the game. It was decided there would be a 3-minute overtime and let’s just say it was not my fantasy day as the top fundraisers would win the game on a scramble in which they had me going back and forth and finally putting the puck behind me for the 6-5 win.

Sure, I was upset, but still very happy with a weekend I will never forget as long as I live. I will enter the event again next year but may not get to do what I did this year. No matter. As I told Jason Zent as I was leaving with a smile on my face that would not go away, I really had a blast this weekend capped off by being in that locker room with him and the former Bruins that I cheered for so many years.

Sunday, for the two hours I was with those guys was as good as any day gets, without fail.

To the people that chose to sponsor me in this endeavor, thank you!

I’m humbled beyond belief and know that your dollars will be put to great use!

ic Duarte has covered hockey and the Bruins for various media outlets since 1986. You can follow Ric at and on Twitter @bruins_diehard.



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