On March 9, 2016, the NHL announced the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers would participate in the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. The game would be held in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field and give the hockey world the opportunity to see the “Battle of Pennsylvania” contested within some rather large confines, adding another layer to the rivalry.
The Penguins took the game 4-2, as Sidney Crosby collected the game winner, adding another “big” goal to his collection of heroics.
In honor of both franchises celebrating their 50th Anniversaries, the league announced two alumni games would be included on the scheduled list of events to coincide with Stadium Series Game. The first contest would be played on Jan. 14, 2016, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. With the second game occurring on March 18, 2017, at the Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The teams would draw even in the first game 3-3, with the Flyers earning an 8-6 victory in the second game.
One member of the Penguins roster was a veteran of 218 NHL games, goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin.
Aubin appeared in 168 games with the Penguins over six seasons from 1998-2004, compiling a record of 63-72-11, a goals-against average of 2.92, and earning six shutouts along the way. After his time with Pittsburgh, Aubin would make stops in Los Angeles, Toronto and Philadelphia before rounding out his playing career in six seasons overseas, competing in Germany, France, and Italy.
The Hockey Writers: Can you discuss how you became involved with the Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni organization?
Jean-Sebastien Aubin: I‘ve never left Pittsburgh since I played here. We always came back in the summers, in between seasons. So I always kept in touch with the Alumni all along. When I finally retired a few years ago, after playing 6 years in Europe. I got more involved with it.
THW: Are you going to have continued involvement with the Penguins alumni organization?
JA: I will definitely keep playing any games we get involved in. I had a great time, and I‘m pretty much the only goalie available in town, so I win by default. I don’t care. It’s so much fun, everyone involved is a blast to be around, and all the stories are great to hear once again.
THW: Would you like to see the NHL invest more resources into Alumni initiatives?
JA: I would love if the NHL would get more involved with the alumni. I think we could do a little circuit of maybe 10 games a year, where we could travel a little and showcase our old legs. I think the fans would have a blast, as long as the lineups are legit with players that played enough to be remembered.
Return To The Ice
THW: How many William M.Jennings trophies would have an Aubin and Jocelyn Thibault tandem collected?
JA: Lol, probably zero. If we did, it would have been a tremendous team effort. Let’s be honest it would have been legendary, haha.
THW: What were some of the emotions you felt during the player introductions, and through the first few minutes of the game?
JA: I didn’t really think much of it since we played in Philadelphia. I definitely didn’t expect any cheers, but I don’t recall being booed either. So I‘m unsure if it’s an insult or a good thing. As far as how it felt. Let’s just say I didn’t want to embarrass myself. I was a little nervous until the puck dropped, but then it all settled and felt like the usual intensity of having a good game
THW: Who do you think has more fun in these types of games: skaters or goaltenders?
JA: I think everyone has a good time, but the players probably have the most fun. Since it’s not a defensive type of game goalies usually get abused lol.
THW: Given the storied history between the Penguins/Flyers, did you get a sense the game was more than an exhibition contest?
JA: The game we played in Philadelphia was definitely lots of fun. Don’t get me wrong we weren’t going to make it easy on them, and I think they felt the same. So, in the end, a 3-3 tie was the perfect ending for us, and I’m sure they were happy too. No one was going to give the game away, trust me that rivalry was still there just at a different level that’s all lol.
THW: In alumni games, a penalty shot replaces a power play. What impact on the NHL would that rule change have?
JA: Luckily, it didn’t happen when we played the 2 games we did against the flyers last year. Now if the NHL would adopt this I think a few coaches would have a heart attack every year, and goalies would definitely have gray hair faster in their life. I think the only ones that would actually enjoy this would be the fans. I’m not sure players would want that kind of responsibility for their actions.
Family and the Future
THW: What was it like to share the experience with your family?
JA: It was great for them. The whole gang came to Philly to watch the game. They had a blast until they realized Crosby wasn’t there, and then the interest went down a little.
THW: Did being a participant in the alumni games, fuel a desire for a comeback?
JA: I‘m happy with being retired. I get to help young goaltenders to reach their goals and maybe their dream of playing at the highest level they can get. Being a goaltending coach for the Penguins Elite Program has been good for my transition, it helped me go through it a lot easier than if I didn’t keep myself busy. I have found it to be been as rewarding as when I played.