While the other denizens of the Palm Isle were holding things down indoors, I spent the last few weekends out and about on hockey-related expeditions. And here's the happy recap (sorry for the baseball reference...I can't think of how Howie Rose teases a recap, though I sure as heckfire know that "damn" isn't part of it):
Saturday, January 12: To mark the closing weekend of the Pond at Bryant Park in NYC, a swell group of former NHLers took to the ice to skate with what I assume were the largely oblivious masses. Clark Gillies, Bob Nystrom, Gerry Hart, Benoit Hogue, and Rod Gilbert (one of these things is not like the other...) were introduced to the crowd by a gentleman who called Gerry Hart "Gary" (leading to a later debate at the autograph tent of whether the guy signing autographs was Gerry Hart or Garry Howatt), Benoit Hogue "Benoit Hague," and the hockey team from Buffalo the "SAH-brays." Twice. Good to see they got a hockey fan to do the job.
I didn't skate, ostensibly because the line was too long but mainly because I didn't want to fall in front of Gillies and Nystrom. Instead I queued up with the rest of the nonathletes on the autograph line, where I was regaled with stories of hotel collecting success (if I get really bored one weekend, maybe I'll do that and report back to you) and eBay finds. Finally, the players made their way over, and the signing began. I added Nystrom to my signed John Tonelli 8X10, got Gillies, Hart, and Hogue to sign an Isles puck, and accepted a signed postcard from Gilbert, who, I was told by the collectors in line, has turned into a big jerkoff. I have a soft spot for Gilbert, because he was always nice to my dad when he worked at the Garden, so I didn't want to believe that he was a prick. But then he greeted the request of the guy behind me to sign his mini Rangers stick with "I don't sign those things." Meaning, I guess, that he doesn't sign them unless you pay him to. Friggin' Rangers.
The line was so short that I had a rare bright idea: get the pictures printed off my memory card at the Kinko's across the street and get back on line to get them signed. Bob Nystrom saluted my ingenuity as I made my way through the line for a second time. Or at least he said something vaguely complementary to someone who might be a stalker. And then he signed the group photo, which has a hot shot of some Nystrom ass because he turned around at the moment I took the picture (really, I swear), saying "I just wanted you to get my better side." Good times.
Sunday, January 13: After Saturday's successful day, I figured I'd keep the fun going by hopping on the Metro-North to see the Sound Tigers play their third game in three days, and their second against the Binghamton Senators. And, of course, this afforded me the opportunity to see our Blessed Savior Kyle Okposo in his third professional game. Let us pause to celebrate his presence on earth:
As you can see, it was camo jerseys for Armed Forces Day at the Harbor Yard. A list of those from Connecticut who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan was read before the puck was dropped, and the whole arena went completely silent, save for the gasps that accompanied those whose ages were 19 and 20. A crowd's silence during such a moment would seem like a given, but since the PA announcer at the Coliseum had to say "Please refrain from shouting" before a moment of silence at yesterday's game, it aint always a sure thing. And people in Bridgeport did start chanting "U-S-A!" afterward, but, to their credit, maybe the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff were in the building.
Anyway, the game was pretty slow going, and Okposo looked like a guy who was playing his third game in as many days, so it was hard to get all excited. But I did get a front-row seat next to the penalty box, so at least I had a good view of the nonaction. And I was close when Drew Fata got pummeled by Matt Carkner in a fight. So that's something.
The Sound Tigers lost 3-1 and I didn't win a camo jersey in the auction. Still, I got to see Okposo. I can imagine the excitement in previous years when Isles fans got to see a young Brett Lindros. Or Scott Scissons. Or Dean Chynoweth. I should stop.
Sunday, January 20: What better way to spend NFL Conference Championship Sunday in New England than meeting Hockey Hall of Famer Johnny Bower at a sports collectibles store in Saugus, MA? My friends DJ and Wendy live just minutes away, so I figured it wasn't too much of an imposition to ask them to drive me over to the store before we headed to DJ's friend Chris's house to watch the Pats game.
If you don't know why I would want to meet Johnny Bower, all you need to do is read this from the above link:
"Bower, like his other five Original Six brethren, became famous for his fearless play. Maskless, he never shied away from an attacking player and in fact patented the most dangerous move a goalie can make - the poke-check. Diving head-first into the skates of an attacking player at full speed, Bower would routinely flick the puck off that player's stick and out of harm's way. One time he got a skate in his cheek, knocking a tooth out through his cheek. He suffered innumerable cuts to his mouth and lips and lost virtually every tooth in his mouth from sticks and pucks, but almost to his last game, he never wore a mask."
That's enough to forgive him for being a Ranger.
When we got to the store, I noticed another guy signing stuff next to Bower. Turns out the store added former Bruin and (sigh) Ranger Derek Sanderson to the signing, so I got an 8X10 signed by both of them (and also picked up a signed Willie O'Ree puck while I was there, because it was the day after the Bruins tribute and the puck was only $15). Then, the fun began when I handed my camera off to one of the guys at the store to take a picture of me and Sanderson. I guess I tripped the wheel of the camera to the movie function when I pulled the camera out of my pocket, which led to two three-second videos of me posing awkwardly next to Sanderson. Then the problem was solved, and the picture was taken.
But after that, Sanderson took an interest in my camera. I then spent some time explaining the camera to him, finding it odd that he was so interested. He was particularly hung up on the movie function, and after I explained it, saying that the screen is always running, but the movie doesn't start until someone clicks the button, he said, "Oh, so that's how they get those videos out there." Yeah," I replied. "YouTube and all that." Then I moved over to Bower, who is clearly awesome and has an old-time hockey face you have to love, and got the picture with him.
I wandered around the store a bit, as I can't just go in and out of a place that has autographs on the walls and in racks and cases all around the store. So I'm looking at stuff when Sanderson comes out from behind the counter.
"Hey. Show me that movie thing again with the sound."
"Well, I don't have any on here that have sound on them, but..."
And then he explained why he was so interested. I guess he had been having a conversation with another guy about an actor that he didn't want on the Web anywhere. I honestly didn't even hear the conversation, let alone film it, and if you think I'm even mentioning the person he was talking about, you're crazier than I thought, which, since you're actually reading this blog, is pretty, pretty crazy.
Anyway, he was nice about it, just concerned. Of course, after I told him that there was nothing on the camera and all was resolved, another guy chimed in with "Yeah, that's what he says." The same guy added, "He can still fight, y'know," to which Sanderson said, jokingly (I hope), "Oh, it'd be worse than that." And we all shared a laugh. Ha ha ha.
The lesson here: If you see Derek Sanderson around, don't film him, kids. That's one to grow on.
And with that, I'll wrap up my first post here. Welcome. We're all Palm Islanders.