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Memories From the Turkey Tournament

This post was submitted for Happy Hockey Day by Suzanne Hebert, Head Coach of the Dover Stars Girls, U12

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It was the second round robin game of the Turkey Tournament. One of I’m sure many youth hockey tournaments surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday across the US this past weekend.

The girls U12 team was playing a known team, one we had beaten, shut out actually, earlier in the season. What made this game different was the fact that it was a tournament game - a first tournament game for a few of the younger players on the team. My pre-game locker room spiel started with, “anything can happen in a tournament.” After skating to a 0-0 tie for 2 periods against a team they thought they could easily beat, they were learning what I meant when I said, “teams that have never beaten you before, can beat you in a tournament.” Although we were not officially losing, we weren’t winning either.

Emotions were high on the bench. If you’ve never seen a U12 age girl’s hockey bench, it’s an experience. The line up includes 12 year old players that are 5’5” tall to 10 year olds who don’t even reach 4’10” with their skates on. Pony tails hang down from helmets, pink laces, pink gloves, green laces, green ribbons woven into helmets, pink sticks with purple polka dots, even some mascara and eye liner.

We were keeping the puck in the offensive zone, getting as many shots on net as by the net but their goalie had kept even our strongest shooters scoreless. There were shots from the point that hit the opponent’s shin pads two feet in front of the shot, rebounds that didn’t connect with a stick, and passes that went through the crease untouched.

The third period started and we were getting a bit panicky. Finally, a beautiful pass from our winger, to the center who got off a good shot, a rebound that the other winger got her stick on and slide it past the goalie. Danielle is a first year travel player who I’ve moved around all season. She’s played defense, she’s been a winger. Today she was our right winger and she was the one who put the puck in the net for us.

Another highlight moment for the tournament came a few minutes later. We had managed to hold onto our 1-0 lead and were feeling good. The other team, in a desperate move, pulled their goalie. At the face off, we controlled the puck and got it down to their end. Now, it’s not as easy to score an empty net as one would think. A couple of our stronger shooters had chances they were unable to capitalize on. With just over a minute left in the game, Avery, my youngest, smallest, least experienced player on the team got the puck on her stick, evaded the D and pushed the puck into the empty net giving us the insurance we needed. All 65 pounds of her came straight up off the ice eight inches into the air. I can still picture her –surrounded by her teammates, hugging her, patting her on the helmet. I can still hear their shouts of joy. I remember jumping on the bench, my hands thrown up in the air, at the same time her gloves were raised high on the ice. I can feel the emotions of a game clinching goal for nine-year old.

We went onto the championship game, finished second in the tournament. But what remains the best part of the entire tournament for me is having my two youngest, least experienced players put the puck in the net in their very first tournament. I hope they carry the joy and the confidence of the moment with them for a long time. I know I will.

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Christmas Gift From Mom

This post was submitted for Happy Hockey Day by Thomas J. Hudon of Timmins, ON.

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Before my brother and I started playing, my mom had no interest whatsoever in hockey. Once my brother and I laced up the skates, my mom became a fan. Well at least a fan of my brother and I. I was more of a rabid NHL fan then my brother was, and actually cheered for a team. Being a fan of the Vancouver Canucks, my mom quickly took an interest in them as well.

Growing up in frigid northern Ontario, rarely did I ever have the chance to see my beloved Canucks live in action. Then came along the 1992-1993 hockey season. The Canucks were playing in Toronto on a Thursday in February and the next day in Buffalo. When I saw these games on the schedule my eyes light up. All I wanted for Christmas was tickets to one of these games. Christmas of 1992 rolled around and we were spoiled that year. I remember getting my Canucks jersey personalized with a #10 Bure on it, a Russian made Bure autographed stick, a sweet Canucks hat and a Canucks winter coat. I was spoiled that Christmas, but that was for other reasons I would rather not discuss. Despite all those sweet gifts, the best one was yet to come. Mom had ordered 4 tickets to the Canucks and Sabres game in February. Finally I would be able to see my Canucks, a full 7 years after the last time I saw them.

Now a family trip to Buffalo in the dead of winter may seem like the greatest thing in the world, but more was to come. When I received the tickets, I was discussing how I would like to go to the practice and perhaps meet some players. Apparently this struck an idea with mom. Without telling us, she wrote a letter to the Canucks coach, Pat Quinn. My mother explained to Pat that we were coming from a long ways (it’s about a 9 and a half hour drive from Timmins to Buffalo when not fighting the elements) and it would cap off the perfect Christmas gift if, her son Tommy, could meet a couple of his favorite Canuck players, namely Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden and Kirk McLean.

A few weeks later, Pat Quinn responded to my mother, telling her that we could either show up at practice or after the game to meet the players. Now THIS was the perfect Christmas gift! February could not have come any sooner and we made our way to Buffalo.

The big day had arrived, and we made our way to the old Aud. We were to try and find a fellow named Steve Tambellini (who I had not known of at the time) and he would escort us in to the room. When we arrived at the arena, the Sabres were practicing first. My brother and I were running around the arena, going from end to end in awe whenever we’d see a player we could get close to. Security had been chasing us and finally caught up with us when we stopped to talk to John Muckler. He was in the stands taking notes. Security tried taking us out, but Mucks said we were with him. He let me try on his Stanley Cup ring as well. We sat with Muck while the Canucks took the ice helping him scout the competition. Finally our dad waved us over and pointed out Geoff Courtnall to us. Dad even had a story to tell us. While he was in the washroom taking a leak, all he could smell was a cigar. He looked over to his right and there was Pat Quinn! My dad said “Holy poop, Pat Quinn! What are you doing here?” To which Quinn responded with “Taking a piss. What about you?” My dad then told him who he was and Pat said he would set things up for us.

So the family was gathered and we were brought into the Canucks change room. The deal was we were to meet Linden and Bure. McLean was given the night off because he was lit up by them pesky Maple Leafs. Cliff Ronning walked by and he got a kick out of my hat. Bure signed some cards and my jersey and took off. He wasn’t too talkative. Linden came around and was more that we traveled all that way to see them, then I was amazed to be in the hallway of the Cancuks dressing room. After a chatting for about 10 minutes, I noticed Petr Nedved torching his stick. This caught my attention and Linden brought me over. He told Petr to show me how to torch a stick. From there, Linden brought us in the room where the rest of the team was getting undressed. He told my dad, my brother and I to take our time and meet everyone. Linden, Quinn and the rest of the coaching staff sat in the coaches room having coffee with my mom. I entered the dressing room and every player greeted us. I spent most of the time chatting with Dave Babych and Ryan Walter. They seemed to be enjoying this more then I was (not to say I was loving every minute of it). I must have spent about an hour in that dressing room, getting all the players to sign my cards. The team showered and went on their way as the family regrouped and went off to lunch. That night the Canucks beat the Sabres 3-1.

It was a great game. I also got to meet a few Sabres that day, namely Grant Fuhr, Philip Boucher, Donald Audette and Alexandre Mogilny. Dominik Hasek snubbed me for an autograph, but I really didn’t care that much since Donny Lever (then assistant coach of the Sabres and a Timmins boy who even went on a date or two with my mom) came over and hooked us up with an autograph alone with Audette and Boucher’s. I still have them all on the same puck.

So some of you guys may think this was a rant about nothing or just some guy gloating. But at 27 years old now, I still look back at that day as the best day of my life.

Thanks mom, for the memory of a lifetime.

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Sharks on Camera

This post was submitted for Happy Hockey Day by Cody Thompson.
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We own season tickets to the Sharks and last year my father and myself decided to go down to Anaheim to watch the Sharks clinch the division title. We thought it would be boring for just us two to go, so we invited the guy that sits next to and also own season tickets. We flew down the morning of the game and when we went to our hotel we were told by the lady at the desk that their was a party that has not checked out their rooms yet, so we were going to have to wait. So we went to the little lounge area that we could have a couple of sodas and what not.

So a half hour goes by and we see this man walk out of the elevator and is caring a bag with the NHL logo on the back. We thought it might have been an NHL official and ignored it. But when this guy turned around all of our jaws might have dropped to the ground, because we just saw Joe Thornton! We were excited and did not get his picture because we lost sight of him. Then Jody Shelly came out and we ask if I could get a picture with him, and his response was quite funny. He said, “Uh? With me? Sure why not.”

Then Douglas Murray comes out and we politely ask if we could get a picture. He said, sure and got a picture with him, then Campbell comes and we ask and he says of course, however at the time we did not know he would be leaving, but that is besides the point. Anyway, we went to the game having a good feeling and excited. We sat where the Sharks were warming up before the game and we saw Shelly, and when he looked at us we waved and gave a smile and waved back at us.

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Yosemite, California, “Hockey Village”

This article was submitted for Happy Hockey Day by Jason.

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Nobody plays hockey in California, Right? Well up in the mountains of the Sierra we do things a little differently.

Though the snow and ice come late and leave early, the boys of Yosemite drop the puck whenever possible. On just about any given day during the Fall and spring, a visitor to the scenic Gold-Rush town of Mariposa can find a group of high school boys up at the local tennis court with sticks in hand and a trashcan for the goal. No pads, not many rules, just sticks, a ball and passion for the greatest game on Earth. After the game, paying up was simple. The losers buy the winners a pizza at the local pizza factory. Come winter time, the two teams enjoy our two month stint of on-ice games. With a quick drive up to Yosemite, we could play on the open-air sheet of ice in Curry Village. With the wind whipping, El Capitan towering 2,000 feet above us and nothing but the sound of skates on the ice, this convinced me.

Hockey is a game above all games. 

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