Stu Cowan: Sports Celebrity Breakfast a big hit for fans of all ages

Former Canadiens Yvan Cournoyer, Pete Mahovlich and Frank Mahovlich mingle with the fans, along with current Habs Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

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Montreal’s past and present were well represented on Sunday at the 18th Annual Sports Celebrity Breakfast at Jardin Royalmount.

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The event is a fundraiser for the Cummings Jewish Center for Seniors Foundation and due to COVID-19, it was the first time in three years that it was done in person. The event has raised more than $2 million over the years and all 400 tickets were sold on Sunday.

Before breakfast began, sports fans of all ages could mingle with current and former Montreal sports stars — getting photos and autographs — followed by onstage interviews by members of the media.

Former Canadiens Yvan Cournoyer, Pete Mahovlich and Frank Mahovlich were there, along with current players Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. Former Expos outfielder Ken Singleton was on hand to receive the Expos Baseball Legend Award, while Alouettes owner Gary Stern was the guest of honor and was joined by team president Mario Cecchini and GM Danny Macioca. Retired sportscaster Rick Moffatt, longtime radio voice of the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, received the Larry Fredericks Media Award, while former NBA player Joel Anthony attended to represent Montreal’s new Canadian Elite Basketball League team, the Alliance. in his role as GM.

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The only professional sports team from Montreal not represented, despite being invited, was football CF Montréal, which again showed a lack of connection to the community a year after changing the team name from Impact.

It was fantastic to watch Suzuki and Caufield take the time to interact with fans, sign autographs and pose for photos. The smiles on the kids’ faces as they met the young Canadiens stars were priceless, as was the smiles on older fans when they met Cournoyer, the Mahovlich brothers and Singleton, who brought back fond memories of the time when the Expos “Nos Amours” at Jarry Park.

Stern, Cecchini and Maciocia spoke passionately about how they are working hard to bring back the glory days of the Alouettes at Molson Stadium. Cecchini also noted that seeing Cournoyer and the Mahovlich brothers made him feel like a 10-year-old again.

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That’s part of the beauty of this event for a wonderful cause.

Cournoyer won a whopping 10 Stanley Cups during his 16 years with the Canadiens, but there’s one memory he can’t forget.

“I remember the year I lost to Toronto in ’67,” he said.

I often say they don’t make Canadiens players like they used to when the Stanley Cup parade would take the “usual route” through Ste-Catherine St. Caufield showed that they are learning how much the Canadiens mean to fans in this city.

It’s something Cournoyer and the Mahovlich brothers have known for years, and they showed it again on Sunday through their interactions with fans.

“It’s special to put on the jersey every night and to play at the Bell Center is a dream come true for me and no better place to play than Montreal,” said Suzuki. “That playoff run (to the Stanley Cup final last year) was really special to us. We came up short, but hopefully we can get back there pretty soon with the way this team has been built and the guys we’re bringing in. Getting Marty (St. Louis as head coach) really makes the future look bright for us and we’re really excited to be back at training camp this year.

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“I think we clicked immediately when Cole joined the team, on and off the ice. We love hanging out with each other, playing with each other. Just to build that chemistry for the last couple of years and move forward… hopefully Cole will sign a long-term deal with us. Just to play with him is very special. We have a lot of fun together and hopefully we can win a few cups like the older guys.”

Cournoyer said he enjoys watching the two young Canadiens stars play and thinks he may have lost his nickname to Caufield.

“There’s a new Roadrunner,” Cournoyer said, adding that you don’t have to look at their numbers to know who Caufield and Suzuki are when they’re on the ice.

The Mahovlich brothers have 10 Stanley Cup rings between them, which is equivalent to Cournoyer’s total. Frank won four with the Toronto Maple Leafs and two with the Canadiens, while Pete won four with Montreal.

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Frank played just three full seasons with the Canadiens, starting in 1971-72, on a par with Cournoyer and Jacques Lemaire. Cournoyer scored at least 40 goals in each of those seasons, while Mahovlich scored 43, 38 and 31 in those years.

“I spent three of the best years of my hockey career here with Mr. (Sam) Pollock and the Montreal Canadiens,” said Mahovlich, referring to the team’s former GM who won nine Stanley Cups during his 14 years in that position.

Most of the fans who attended Sunday’s breakfast were too young to remember those glory days with the Canadiens.

For those old enough to remember, it was a day to feel like a kid again.

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