Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NHL Legends: Time Well Spent

If there's one thing I love about hockey players it's that they usually come labelled. They have uniforms and logos to identify their teams, and they have their names stitched on the back of their sweaters.

Put them in street clothes, though, and I'm lost.

"It's scary," I said to Mom. "What am I going to be like when I'm 80? I don't recognize anybody!"

Actually that wasn't quite true. I knew their faces and their names, but I just couldn't affiliate two together correctly unless it was Alain Cote or Stephane Richer.

In fairness, I remember seeing them play years ago, although I had no real use for Cote as he spent most of his career in a Nordiques uniform and if you don't know how I feel about the Nordiques by now I have to wonder why you even read this blog.

Me and Alain Cote, making nice. Sergio Momesso on the right.
"Don't spit on the floor," said Mom, because not only does she know how I feel about the Nordiques, she doesn't like me spitting, regardless of whether or not it is a floor she may have to clean afterwards.

It was after the NHL Legends had trounced my home team of the Port-aux-Basques Mariners. Having sold only 8 of 100 Tier 2 VIP tickets meant Mom and I would have a lot of quality time with the Legends, particularly as only 5 of us had bothered to attend the schmooze-fest.

For reasons I cannot even begin to explain, I was sporting a Tomas Plekanec sweater when as far as I could ascertain he was currently playing in Europe and was highly unlikely to be at this party. Since I was wearing a Habs sweater and Mom was wearing a Canadiens t-shirt and vintage sweater we stood out like sore thumbs.

Everyone else at the game wearing a team sweater had been playing on the ice, unless you count the lone Boston fan wearing his jersey and it's not like I'm going to do that because he disappeared after the first intermission and anyway it's just Boston for crissakes.

On the plus side, this meant Mom and I got hauled upstairs to watch the third period from the booth, which had the best view in the rink.

View of the Legends bench from the booth.
"I don't want to go into the booth," said Mom. "What am I going to do in the booth?"

As it turns out, not much.

We cheered for everyone, got razzed by John Horrigan, and ducked when Mike Krushelnyski tried twice to lob his stick into the booth at us.

During the third period a Mike Cammalleri type deal went down, and Richer, Dupont, I-forget-who-else got their asses traded to the Mariners. It didn't help though as the Mariners fourth and final goal was scored by a local anyway.

"I need a drink," I said, because I always say this and particularly at hockey games when I've worked up a vicious thirst by hollering at the players who wisely ignore me unless they are Mike Krushelnyski at which point they try to high-stick me in an elevated booth.

"You almost hit me," I scolded him, having been treated by then to a drink courtesy of Stephane Richer who made certain that the "Habs women" got their rum and cokes.

Krushelnyski said it didn't count since he actually didn't hit us and if you've never met the man let me tell you he is unfairly charming and really what are ya gonna do? I shrugged and gave him a bag of Newfie Screech laced coffee.

Try to find Stephane Richer in this photo if you can.
Richer was kind enough to sign his rookie card for Da Nephew's collection, mock my Plekanec sweater, and then borrowed my marker to sign the Stanley Cup replica model that I suspect will be auctioned off for charity. He gave a young Leafs fan a hard time by initially refusing to sign the Toronto mini-stick but relented and posed for photos after a bit of teasing.

He was personable and kind enough to make sure to spend time with all the fans in turn, but left early to get some shut eye as the boys were playing 5 games in 5 nights and if you've never been to Newfoundland that means a lot of damned driving back and forth across the island so it was perfectly understandable.

I probably spent the most time with Gary Leeman and Mike Krushelnyski, discussing Newfoundland's charms and their love of doing this sort of charity gig for the fans. Leeman was most kind about loving the East Coast of Canada and its friendly nature, and Krushelnyski missed his calling as a stand-up comedian / smartass.

I wasn't having a good enough night so they put my ticket stub into a hat and I won Krushelnyski's sweater, then did a silly happy dance and raced over to have it signed. He made sure to spell my name right and posed for more photos so now I've decided that I will love the Oilers second only to my beloved Canadiens, no doubt causing the entire Winnipeg Jets organization to gnash their teeth with frustration and assess possible lawsuit options against poor Mike for stealing me away.

I spoke with Roy Nolan and Glenn Anderson at length about the current lockout, and we all agreed on one thing: it sucks, there's unlikely to be any NHL hockey this year, and thank God for the AHL teams.

Mom, Ian Lafratte, Me, Roy Nolan, Rick Middleton
Probably every single player I mentioned the Ice Caps to asked me who they were a farm team for (Winnipeg), which took me a bit by surprise because I assume they all know this shit by the time they come out of the womb and strap on their first pair of skate blades I guess even though I can't tell you who Albany (whom Nolan played for) was a farm team for (Detroit). In my defense, I've never played pro hockey though.

Despite my initial reservations Alain Cote, like every other player there, turned out to be a sweetheart of a guy and while I will never like the Nordiques I've decided that even a rotten barrel of apples probably has a good core or two and hopefully my fellow Habs fans will forgive me for liking the guy. I also liked Rick Middleton a lot and he was a Bruins and I kind of overlooked that too just as he ignored my Habs sweater and even signed it.

Glenn Anderson, Moi, Gary Leeman, and Andre DuPont
Hell, they all signed it and now all I have to do is find a way to get Plekanec to sign his own sweater because I've only got 3 Habs signatures on there and none of them are his and there's even a Bruins and Leafs signature on it. I'm assuming the shame of this will be incentive enough for Pleky to sign if I do ever run into him.

I'm posting pictures just to torment you and to prove I'm not making all this shit up. I can't give you names, numbers or any other info other than this - if you get the chance to go to one of these games and the meet and greets, take advantage. It's worth every penny.

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