The Winter Classic Alumni Game: Blueshirt Banter Talks To Mike Keenan

Mike Keenan was actually working when he received the call.

And after Keenan hung up the phone the former NHL head coach who amassed 672 regular season victories, 96 playoff victories and led the New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years was going to be behind the bench again.

"Glen Sather called me and asked if I would be interested [in coaching the Rangers alumni team]," he said. "And I was actually in New York working so I was quite busy doing work for MSG."

Busy or not, Keenan didn't hesitate to take the opportunity.

"I said yes, I thought it would be fun, and that's what it's about," he said. "For the players it's a renewal of their friendships, their histories and their memories, both good and bad. And since I had coached both teams there will be many players from each team that I have coached playing."

Join me after the jump for more.

Keenan coached the Philadelphia Flyers from 1984-1988, leading them to the Stanley Cup finals twice, but never winning a ring. He spent one season with the New York Rangers in 1994 and won the only Stanley Cup of his coaching career there.

Keenan thinks it's going to be a blast to get back behind the bench, especially for an event as fun as an alumni game.

"Well it will be fun and interesting to be there," he said. "You have such a range of guys, some are in their 60's and some are in their early 40's. Philadelphia has Mark Recchi and he just retired last year, so he's probably going to be the youngest of the group."

One of the coolest aspects of this particular alumni game is the rivalry. I had the opportunity to attend the Boston Bruins-Hartford Whalers alumni game at Rentschler Field last year. That game wasn't a true alumni game (some celebrities took part in the event), but it was still a fantastic experience for the fans. I can tell you from being there that Brian Leetch still has his shot from the point and the ability to hit those tape-to-tape passes.

And while that particular alumni game was all fun and games, Keenan thinks this alumni game might take on a much more interesting angle due to the relationship between the players and teams.

"Well it will be fun to be with them for sure," Keenan said of coaching some of the players he coached in 1994. "I have had many occasions to be able to spend some time with them and it's always fun to bring back those memories. But during the game their memories are going to be reflected in the fact that these two teams were very fierce rivals at one time as young NHL players."

Aside from the rivalry itself, Keenan just thinks the alumni game and the Winter Classic is something that's good for the fans, the players, the teams and the game of hockey.

"I think it's a big stage and New York is certainly as big as it gets," he said. "I think the event has taken on a life of its own and it's not the playoffs but in this instance it's a great rival between the two teams and it's an experience that the players seem to enjoy," he said. "They all love playing outside and they love playing in a venue when you can have forty or fifty thousand people watching a hockey game. It's a fun event that I think helps the players have another event in the course of a long season to look forward to."

Fans looking for tickets for the Rangers-Flyers Alumni Outdoor game on Saturday, Dec 31 at 1 p.m., can purchase them at newyorkrangers.com or call (212) 465-6080. The tickets start at $53.

Thoughts on all this guys?

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