When I was a little kid I loved the Montreal Canadiens. No, I mean I REALLY loved the Montreal Canadians. I owned three pairs of Habs pyjamas in a row. I’d wear each one until they became threadbare and then I’d whine until my parents replaced them. I had Habs sweatshirts, t-shirts and even a Ken Dryden lunchbox!
Sadly my devotion didn’t end with apparel and where I kept my peanut butter sandwiches. I was a snot-nosed stalker. It’s taken me a long time to be able to admit that to myself. You see, the Canadiens were playing an exhibition game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Halifax in the early ‘80s and my parents agreed to take me.
Now I wasn’t an overly active kid – or adult, depending on whom you ask – but for some reason I went hog wild when I got to Halifax and realized that my beloved Habs were in town. My cousin and I ran amok in the hotel trying to figure out if the team was staying there. Any man in his 20s or 30s got stared down in an effort to figure out if he might be a Hab or even one of the hated Blackhawks. Not that the teams were rivals, I could just hate another team for showing up to play against my favourites. I was talented like that.
Then it happened, Steve Shutt made the unfortunate decision to walk through the lobby of the hotel. I think I sensed him before I even saw him. But, when I turned and saw the face that had often stared back at me from my TV and O-Pee-Chees, I took off like a shot. I was jumping over suitcases, knocking old ladies onto luggage carts and moving like Oprah on a ham. When I caught up to Steve, I glommed onto his arm and stopped his forward progress. “You’re Steve Shutt!” I yelled. He calmly replied, “I know.” Which at the time baffled me a fair bit, but now I find quite funny.
On the same trip, I tried to follow Rod Langway into the hotel bar. Granted I was tall for my age (maybe 11), but bar staffers weren’t going for it. As my mother searched for my cousin and I – who were busy doing our imitations of The Tasmania Devil on speed – she peaked into an elevator that was just starting to close. Bob Gainey was inside. He smiled at my Mom, pointed left and said, “They went that way.”
Et tu, Bob?
The morning of the game we went to Metro Centre at the time we knew the Habs were practicing. I am not sure how we found out the time. Maybe it was a terrified Steve Shutt who spilled the beans. We waited outside and got autographs from Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard (who whipped out his own pen!) and Larry Robinson. Something I didn’t realize at the time, but Larry’s brother was also there and I got his autograph. His name? Moe. I kid you not. Larry and Moe. Had I been older, the Three Stooges jokes would have been flying.
Something else happened that morning. As I was standing by the player’s entrance – and unsuccessfully trying to convince a security guard that I was Guy Lapointe’s illegitimate son – goalie Denis Heron walked by and I asked him for an autograph. He kept walking in through the door, and let it slam in my face. I was shocked. Even a “No.” would have been better than that. I would have been satisfied with a “Bite me!” too. But, to just let that door slam. It was more than twenty years ago and I still get annoyed thinking about him. I booed him for years afterwards. I made a Denis Heron voodoo doll and constantly worked the groin. (Not really, but how funny would that have been?) That was my one bad memory of the trip. Had he taken two minutes, it would have been a perfect childhood memory. Screw you, Heron! Anyone know where I can get a good voodoo doll? Though at his age, Mother Nature is most likely working his prostate for me.
But, there was something else VERY cool that happened on that trip. I met Guy LaFleur. I loved Guy. As much as I loved the Habs, I think I loved “The Flower” more. I was an official member of the “Guy LaFleur Fan Club.” Seriously. I had a big Guy poster on my wall. I cheered loudly every time he scored a goal. And I met him on the street outside the Metro Centre. He was arriving a little later than everyone else and had a mini-entourage with him. (How do you say posse in French?) I meekly asked for an autograph. Guy stopped, smiled and took my little notepad from my shaking hand. He also signed a puck for me. (More on that in a moment.) He asked where we were from and seemed amazed that we had driven three hundred and fifty kilometres just to see them play. It was a great day for me and I still remember it as clearly as can be. Guy made this kid very happy that day.
The next day we made the trek back home. I was showing my little sister my autographs, program from the game, and my puck that Guy had signed. My sister still sucked her thumb at the time. She picked up the puck, looked at it for a moment, and then proceeded to wipe Guy’s autograph off with her saliva covered thumb as I watched in horror. That was about as angry as I’ve ever been.
I really loved hockey back then. My sister? Not so much. But, I’ve forgiven my sister. Mostly. Can hockey win me back?