GREENWICH -- Who would have thought Milford was a Montreal Canadiens stronghold?
On Sunday, at a fundraiser in Greenwich for the Marty Lyons foundation organized by Greenwich native and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson, some hardcore Habs fans showed up to see Canadiens forward and New Canaan native, Max Pacioretty.
While Pacioretty was unable to attend, Steve Mendelssohn, 27, and Shaun Liebskind, 47, both from Milford, did see a number of National Hockey League players such as Atkinson, Riverside resident Martin St. Louis and New York Rangers rookie sensation Chris Kreider.
Mendelssohn, who was sporting a Patrick Roy Montreal Canadiens jersey, became a fan of the Canadiens when he was 5 years old.
"It was through my stepfather," he said. "He was a big Montreal Canadiens fan, and I have been a fan ever since."
His stepfather Yvon Morissette is from St. Georges, Quebec, and came to the United States a quarter-century ago and met and married Mendelssohn's mother, Annelie.
Morissette, 55, answers with a wide smile when asked who his favorite player is.
"Guy Lafleur," he said about the legendary Canadiens star from the '70s and early '80s.
Mendelssohn and Morisette go to New York Rangers games twice a year to see the Canadiens play, Mendelssohn said, and they are not alone in Madison Square Garden in their devotion to the team.
"There are always a lot of Canadiens fans at the game," he said. "Busloads of them will come down to the see them play."
Liebskind, who had not met Mendelssohn before Sunday's event, became a fan of the Canadiens after reading a story about Lafleur in the 1970s.
"The Canadiens are my favorite team and there are a lot of Canadiens fans out there, you just have to look for them," he said.
Liebskind's passion for the team was cemented after he spent 2 1/2 years in Quebec City earning a master's degree in French. He is now a French teacher in Lebanon.
Atkinson was one of the driving forces behind the fundraiser, which was held in the parking lot in front of Magaschoni, a high-end knitwear boutique on Mason Street owned by his mother, Ellen.
Atkinson said he was able to call on his hockey friends to help him with his event, which he hopes will become an annual gathering.
Also signing autographs at the event were: Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders; Nick Bonino of the Anaheim Ducks; Philip DeSimone, of the American Hockey League's Hamilton Bulldogs; Cos Cob's Sean Backman of the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Daniel New of the AHL's Springfield Falcons.
"I didn't really know what to expect," he said during a break from signing autographs. "I hope every summer it is going to get a little bit bigger and better."
The young winger out of Boston College may have some extra time on his hands in the fall if the NHL and its players union don't come to a labor agreement.
Atkinson said he's been following developments on Twitter and wants to see a resolution.
"Hopefully they will come up with a solution and settle it soon," he said.
The Marty Lyons foundation was founded by former NFL player Marty Lyons, who played with the New York Jets. He began the foundation following the death in 1982 of a 6-year-old boy for whom he had become a surrogate father. The foundation grants wishes to seriously ill children.
Kreider, who was Atkinson's teammate at BC, said he was drawn to helping out a good cause and a good friend.
"It's a great event and I am pretty close to a lot of guys here, especially Cam Atkinson and the Atkinson family," Kreider said. "It is important to me to come out."
Rangers fans eagerly looked forward to Kreider's joining the team late last year for the playoff run, for which the younger player provided a big spark.
Kreider said he's excited about the upcoming season, if there is one.
"There really isn't anything I am not looking forward to, and I just can't wait to play hockey and make the team this year," he said.
A special fan of Moulson's came to town with his family from Bethpage, Long Island, to see his hero.
Vincent Resta, 8, has met Moulson before, the first time after he received a pair of tickets to see an Islanders game, his mother Hope said.
Moulson gave Vincent a tour of the Islanders arena and got autographs of other players for him, she said.
"He's been to a couple of signings at our local mall, and when Vincent hears his name he wants to go," she said.
Later, Moulson posed with Vincent and his brother Joseph, 6, and sister, Madelyn, 4 ½.