The official attendance for Game 7 of the 1999 Kelly Cup finals was 9,150 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.
To hear people talk about it, more than twice that number was in the stands when Kevin Hilton scored the game-winner at 12:16 a.m. on May 31, 1999. Coming back from a 3-1 series deficit, the Sea Wolves rebounded to defeat the Richmond Renegades and give Mississippi a championship in the franchise’s third year.
Seventeen years later, some of the players from that team — along with then-Head Coach Bruce Boudreau — will gather to reminisce with teammates and fans in a Sea Wolves reunion.
The public event will be held Aug. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Breeze Bar in the south tower of Island View Casino Resort.
Ed Layton, a friend of Boudreau’s who organized the event, said they chose the Breeze Bar so they could have a family-friendly venue. The restaurant is in the hotel tower on the south side, away from the casino floor, so parents can bring children to the event, he said.
Boudreau tries to make at least one trip to the Coast each summer before the demands of hockey season take over, Layton said. This year, Layton thought that having a reunion for Bruce and the players would be a fun event.
“It was a great time for a lot of people,” Layton said of the early Sea Wolves days. “I’ve maintained a good relationship with Bruce over the years. We play golf and hang out with some of the players when he’s in town. It’s a chance to relax before the start of the season.”
Boudreau said he enjoys his trips to the Coast, when he can play golf and relax. He often will get a game up with some of the players, who he has kept in touch with over the years.
“It was such a great time there,” Boudreau said. “I think I’ll be going back to Mississippi until the day I die.
“One of my favorite things is when the plane is coming in to land and you can see the Coliseum and see everything. It brings back such a wave of memories.”
Layton said Chuck Thuss, a goaltender with the Sea Wolves, helped put the event together.
Thuss said he expects the reunion to be a memorable event.
“We’d love to see the fans from the 1999 season. It was such a special team,” Thuss said. “Few of the guys who played on that team would say anything but that it was a special team. Really it was the epitome of the word ‘team,’ ” Thuss said.
“Every guy is a story and every story is a memory. What a team,” he said.
Thuss said the Kelly Cup wouldn’t have happened without Boudreau behind the bench.
“He convinced the guys to play a style of hockey that probably 20 guys questioned,” Thuss said. “But we all bought in and he brought us to a championship.
“If some of the NHL teams he coached had bought into it the way we did, he’d have one or more Stanley Cups. The man knows the game.”
Quinn Fair was a defenseman who played for Boudreau not only in Mississippi, but also in Lowell after the coach was promoted to the AHL.
“He’s the same guy he always was, just wears nicer threads,” Fair said. “It’s pretty neat to have that connection (with him and the players) that lasts a lifetime.”
Fair said his time in Mississippi was special, because he felt he was home in Biloxi.
“Without trying to sound like I’m blowing smoke, Mississippi was my home away from home. No other place I played did I have that experience.”
Bob Woods, another former defenseman, would agree. The player-coach who moved up to head coach of the Sea Wolves after Boudreau left and then followed him to Hershey and into the NHL. He currently is an assistant coach under Dan Bylsema with the Buffalo Sabres.
“It was a great time and a great group of guys who have stayed in touch,” Woods said.
Patrick Rochon, a speedy defender who played all or part of eight seasons with the Sea Wolves, said Boudreau was a player’s coach who had a great relationship with his players, whether they were first line or fourth line.
“He always treated me really good, and he always had that up-beat attitude,” Rochon said.
Sea Wolves reunion
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 12
Who: Coach Bruce Boudreau and members of the 1999 Kelly Cup champion Mississippi Sea Wolves hockey team
Where: Island View Casino Resort Breeze Bar (venue is on the second level of the South Tower at Island View)
Misc: There is no admission, but fans are encouraged to wear or bring Sea Wolves gear for autographs. Children are welcome.
1999 Kelly Cup finals
Game 1: Richmond 2, Mississippi 0
Game 2: Mississippi 5, Richmond 3
Game 3: Richmond 5, Mississippi 3
Game 4: Richmond 1, Mississippi 0
Game 5: Mississippi 2, Richmond 0
Game 6: Mississippi 7, Richmond 3
Game 7: Mississippi 4, Richmond 3 (2 OT)
Sea Wolves win series 4-3