Operation Hat Trick Teases Fans

Chock full of NHL stars, the Atlantic City charity game raised money for Sandy victims and left fans hungry for more.

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

For two hours this past weekend, fans clamoring for NHL hockey got their wish – well sort of. 

Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall was the spotlight of the hockey world on Saturday, when it hosted “Operation Hat Trick”, a charity exhibition hockey game created by Scott Hartnell of the Philadelphia Flyers and Brad Richards of the New York Rangers to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The two players – in a partnership with Caesars Atlantic City – hosted the event in front of 10,792 people, after inviting many of their fellow locked-out NHL stars to take part.  Steven Stamkos, Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Brodeur and Bobby Ryan were just are few of the big names that were involved in Team Richards’ 10-6 win over Team Hartnell.      

The event sold out within a week and all of the proceeds go directly to the Empire State Relief Fund, the New Jersey Hurricane Relief Fund and the American Red Cross – aiding New York and New Jersey families affected by the storm’s devastation.  Tickets ranged from $20 to $100 – depending on the seats – and the players’ equipment will soon be autographed and auctioned off for the aforementioned charities. 

Operation Hat Trick was considered a big success by organizers, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars – including a hefty donation from Rock and Roller Sammy Hagar.  Hagar, whose three-year-old beach bar at Bally’s casino suffered severe damage from the storm, pledged to donate $1,000 for every goal scored during the game, up to $10,000.

“I’m proud to lend support to our neighbors and communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy and applaud the NHL players who’ll be hittin’ the ice on Saturday,” he said before the game.

Those players certainly held up their end of the deal, putting on quite a display in a building that’s hosted a plethora of minor league hockey over the years.  The game had no checking and no fights – despite Aaron Asham of Team Richards and Dan Carcillo of Team Hartnell exchanging words, more to excite the crowd than anything.  There were no penalties, instead just a penalty shot for each call, which helped lead to plenty of offense.  But in a game that had 16 goals, the guy who stole the show was goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

Lundqvist finished the game with 56 saves, despite the fact that he was on pace for a 69-save performance when the second period came to an end.  There might have been a little rust due to the lockout, but he had several big saves.

“I think the start was important,” Lundqvist told CSNPhilly. “Technically, the timing was a big question mark, but it was fun to get some action.”

The crowd might have been heavily populated by Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers fans, giving the game a bit of a New York vs. Philly feel, but both sides were just happy to see NHL-caliber hockey.  The event was not aired on television and had little publicity behind it.  It was through social media and word of mouth that people learned what exactly went on and how the players performed. 

But what it really did was leave us wanting NHL hockey back.

Ed is the lead hockey writer and a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller, and subscribe on Facebook @ CraveOnlineSports.

Photo Credit: Getty

By: Tom Briglia
Collection: Getty Images Sport