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