Niclas Wallin flew in from Sweden to play in the Canes' Alumni Fantasy Game on Sunday, to be back with former Carolina teammates, to be back on the ice at PNC Arena.
Paul Lawson flew in from Scotland for the game. For him, it was a bucket-list thing, a chance for an amateur player and hockey fan to share the ice with some of his hockey favorites.
Wallin and Lawson were on the winning team as the White squad edged the Red 11-10, on a late goal by Steve Rice. Lawson believes he scored the third goal for the White, that he got a piece of a Stu Grimson shot, and was beaming after the game.
"From start to finish, from the minute I landed, it has all been great," Lawson said. "It's good to play hockey in another country, especially in a building like this, where it's the team that you followed from the days way back in Hartford. It's a dream come true, really."
A resident of Glenrothes, Scotland, southwest of St. Andrews, Lawson is a loyal fan of the Fife Flyers, the oldest professional hockey team in the United Kingdom. He also played hockey recreationally with the Edinburgh Stingers and Fife Ice Dogs for many years.
Lawson, 38, became a Hartford Whalers fan when a great-uncle moved to Hartford. When the team relocated to North Carolina in 1997, he shifted his allegiance to the Hurricanes and came from Scotland to attend Carolina's home opener four years ago.
Grimson, always a big, tough guy, the “Grim Reaper,” was a player Lawson admired from afar. Later, it was Rod Brind'Amour, the captain of the 2006 Stanley Cup champions and now a Canes assistant coach, whose play Lawson tried to emulate.
On Sunday, for a few hours, Brind'Amour and Lawson were teammates.
"I didn't get much ice with him, I think maybe two-and-a-half seconds right at the end," Lawson said, laughing. "But it was awesome. All good fun."
Lawson joked that on his first shift he skated in against Red team defenseman Glen Wesley, who has his name on the Cup and whose jersey -- No. 2 -- hangs in the rafters.
"I was forechecking behind the net on 'Wes' and I said, 'Let's see what you've got,'" Lawson said. "He blew past me and scored. So I quieted down after that."
Canes general manager Ron Francis didn't play Sunday. But Lawson said he was able to meet Francis, noting he told Francis he was available for a professional tryout, if the Canes needed another forward.
"He turned me down," Lawson said, smiling.
The entry fee for the event is $3,000 and proceeds benefit the Hurricanes' Kids 'N Community Foundation. It generated more than $50,000 last year and is expected to do the same this year.
Wallin, 40, was a steady blue-line presence for the Canes on the 2002 team that reached the Stanley Cup final and the 2006 champions. Nicknamed the "Secret Weapon," the Swede didn't score many goals but had game-winners in overtime and beat the New Jersey Devils in the 2006 playoffs.
Wallin ended his NHL career with the San Jose Sharks in 2011, then returned with his family to Sweden. Concussion issues forced him to retire as a player in 2012.
"It's tough when you're not playing, especially the first year," Wallin said.
But there he was Sunday, back on the ice again at PNC Arena, laughing it up with Brind’Amour and others, the 2006 Stanley Cup banner high above their heads.
"It was a long flight to get here and play here, but it was worth it," Wallin said.