Leary hosts charity game at FleetCenter

BOSTON -- Comedian Denis Leary hosts a hockey game each year to raise money for firefighters in need. This year, he had added incentive.

"I just want to see some hockey!" he said Sunday after his fifth annual Hockey's Greatest Skate for America's Bravest game at the FleetCenter, which would be the host of the Boston Bruins if the NHL hadn't locked out its players.

Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Lanny McDonald, Mike Eruzione and Pie McKenzie joined Leary this year for the lighthearted game with a serious purpose -- to buy equipment for firefighters.

This year's event had the added benefit of providing Bruins fans with a hockey fix while they wait for the NHL to settle its labor problems.

"For us not to play at all would be awful for our game. We (blame) each other, but we're all to blame," Orr said. "A fair deal can be made in the end. I think we'll see hockey this year.

"This isn't about the players winning or the owners winning. The game must win," he added.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has played in the past, but Leary excused him so he could campaign.

"I don't think he really needs to come to Massachusetts," Leary said. "He's played four years in a row. I don't think he needs to come back."

This year's proceeds -- Leary is hoping for $400,000 to $500,000 -- are earmarked for a high-speed rescue boat for Boston harbor and a training center in Worcester. Last year's game helped buy mobile command units for the two cities and to fund the center in
Worcester, Leary's hometown, where six firefighters were killed in 1999 -- including his cousin Jerry Lucey and childhood friend Tommy Spencer.

The Leary Firefighter Foundation was formed after that fire and expanded after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Players wore patches that said W6 and 343, references to the six firefighters killed in Worcester and the 343 families that lost a firefighter in the 2001 attacks.

Firefighters from Boston, Worcester, Connecticut, New York and New Orleans showed up for the event, which was heavy on pregame ceremony and in-game yuks. Bagpipes accompanied the U.S. flag to center ice for "God Bless America" before the disc jockey serving as the master of ceremonies screeched, "Are you ready for some hockey or what?"

Orr's team beat the one coached by funnyman Lenny Clarke and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler 17-16, despite a goal by Michael J. Fox with 22.9 seconds left that gave him a hat trick. TV actress Diane Farr, Clarke's assistant coach, showed up with a bullwhip but
couldn't inspire her team to victory.

The tone of the game was set when Leary and former Bruins tough guy Jay Miller dropped their gloves at the opening faceoff; no one was penalized. Orr's team went up in the 2-0 in the first 3:10 and Clarke, who was wearing a microphone, shouted, "This isn't the way it was in the script."