WINSLOW — The last time Rick Middleton was at the Pointe Afta, he crooned.  It was around St. Patrick’s Day last year, and he belted out a version of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” that still makes him smile.

“I used to sing Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett when I was 12 years old,” Middleton said. “There are certain guys on our squad who like to get up and sing a few tunes. We had a nice karaoke night going.”

On Tuesday, Middleton and a dozen other Boston Bruins alumni stopped at the Pointe Afta on their way to the Canadian Maritimes, where they played three games to raise money for local youth hockey leagues.

Years ago, Middleton and Stan LaPointe, the restaurant’s owner, played on a softball team together. The friendship has endured, so when the Bruins alumni have games in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, they stop in Winslow for lunch.

This time, there was no singing. Only lunch and old friends catching up while the day’s NHL highlights played on the big screen in the background. The roster for this three-game trip includes Terry O’Reilly, Bob Sweeney, Dan Lacouture and Bruce Shoebottom, who now lives in Scarborough. In these parts, Shoebottom is revered for his play with the Maine Mariners, where he became a fan favorite and racked up penalty minutes the way some people collect frequent flyer miles.

The Bruins alumni play approximately 35 games each year. They play because it raises money for good causes and gives them opportunities to interact with fans. Mostly, they play because it gives them a chance to take the ice.

The hair goes gray and legs slow down, but the desire to compete never completely burns out. These games against police and firefighters, against teachers and youth hockey coaches, are for charity, but there’s a winner and a loser, too. The Bruins don’t want to lose, but they don’t go out of their way to crush their opponents, either.

“We go out there and start the game and see how competitive the other team is. If they turn it up a little, we turn it up a little. It’s not like the Harlem Globetrotters. The other team isn’t supposed to let us win,” Middleton said, “but we’re not there to blow them out of the water, either. We want them to have fun. We want to have fun. It’s more of an entertainment thing. Scoring 10 or 15 or 20 goals on somebody isn’t a lot of fun for them.”

Middleton scored 448 goals in his 14-year NHL career. O’Reilly’s career line is a hockey palindrome, 204 goals, 402 assists. O’Reilly has the answer for when an opponent may get chippy.

“You get a group that’s over trying to the point they’re reckless. Then we put Shoe out there. He has a way of delivering a message,” O’Reilly said. Shoebottom smiled.

The Bruins alumni go out of their way to not run up the score, and if the game is close late, an opponent may start to think it has a chance. The opponent turns it up a notch, which makes the Bruins turn it up a notch, and before anyone knows it, there’s some hooking and holding and tempers on both sides are simmering.

“As long as people keep in mind it’s for charity and a good cause. This isn’t the NHL. As long as we can get past that, it’s usually a good time,” Shoebottom said.

They have fun, and they play hard, but do the Bruins ever lose?

“Never,” Shoebottom said.

“Didn’t they lose that…,” O’Reilly asked, but was interrupted by Shoebottom, who was adamant.
“That wasn’t a real game. That was an exhibition. We’ve never lost a real game,” Shoebottom said.
“I thought this year, we (lost) two games,” O’Reilly said. “I missed both of them.”

They play because doing so is a chance to take part in the bonding that’s a big part of being a member of a team. Middleton thinks this year’s Bruins team, with newcomers like Jerome Iginla and Loui Eriksson, will come together on the road.

“Teams kind of come together on the road, and the Bruins to me are a better road team than a home,” Middleton said.

There are generations of Bruins represented, and those generations overlap. O’Reilly played with and coached Middleton, and coached Shoebottom, Sweeney and Lacouture.

“It’s a nice way to keep friendships alive,” O’Reilly said.

Inevitably, the fans they meet want to talk about the old days. O’Reilly is happy to tell the same stories, of the 1988 Stanley Cup playoffs when the lights went out in Montreal, then in Boston during game two of the finals. The too many men on the ice penalty in Montreal during the 1979 playoffs. The night Normand Leveille suffered a brain aneurysm in Vancouver.

The night Bobby Orr played his final game with the Bruins, before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“He had tears in his eyes. He was limping through the airport,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly is 62. He says he won’t be playing for the alumni team much longer.

“I’m there less and less,” O’Reilly said. “I’ll be behind the bench soon, again.”

Leave it completely? No way.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
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