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Stu Cowan: Sports Celebrity Breakfast is a huge hit with fans of all ages

Former Canadians Yvan Cournoyer, Pete Mahovlich and Frank Mahovlich join the crowd, along with current Habs Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

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

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

Before breakfast began, sports fans of all ages were able to meet with current and former Montreal sports stars – get photos and autographs – followed by onstage interviews conducted by members of the media.

Former Canadians Yvan Cournoyer, Pete Mahovlich and Frank Mahovlich were there, along with current players Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. Former Expos outfielder Ken Singleton attended the Expos Baseball Legend Award ceremony, 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 for the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, received the Larry Fredericks Media Award, while former NBA player Joel Anthony was in attendance to present Montreal’s elite new Canadian basketball league team, the Alliance, in his role to represent as GM.

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

It was fantastic to see Suzuki and Caufield taking the time to mingle with the fans, signing autographs and posing for photos. The smiles on the children’s faces as they met the young Canadiens stars were priceless, as were the smiles on the older fans as they met Cournoyer, the Mahovlich brothers and Singleton, who brought back fond memories of when the Expos “Nr Amours” in Jarry Park.

Stern, Cecchini and Maciocia spoke passionately about how they are working hard to bring back the Alouettes’ glory days 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 has won an incredible 10 Stanley Cups in his 16 years with the Canadiens, but there’s one memory he can’t forget.

“I remember the year I lost to Toronto in 1967,” he said.

I often say they don’t make Canadians the players like they used to when the Stanley Cup parade took the “usual route” down Ste-Catherine Street. Caufield showed they learn how much Canadians den fans in this city mean.

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

“There’s something special about putting the jersey on every night and playing at the Bell Center is a dream come true for me and there’s no better place to play than Montreal,” said Suzuki. “That playoff run (last year’s Stanley Cup Finals) was really special for us. We came up short but hopefully with the way this team is set up and the guys we’re bringing in we can get back there fairly soon. Marty (St.Louis as head coach), the future is really bright for us and we. I’m really happy to be back at the training camp this year.

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“I think when Cole came to the team we clicked on and off the ice straight away. We love hanging out, playing together. Just to build that chemistry and move forward for the last few years…hopefully Cole signs a long-term deal with us. Just playing with him is something very special. We have a lot of fun together and hopefully we can win some trophies 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 together, equal 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 only played three full seasons with the Canadiens, beginning in 1971-72, alongside Cournoyer and Jacques Lemaire. Cournoyer scored at least 40 goals in each of those seasons, while Mahovlich scored 43, 38, and 31 goals in those years.

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

Most of the fans present at Sunday’s breakfast were too young to remember those glory days with the Canadians.

Because for those old enough to remember, it was a day when they could feel like a kid again.

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