Surprise, I actually haven’t been writing this post since the fall. It was all just a clever scheme to get you to boost my google analytic rating. But.. now that you’re here,
Last week I accomplished one of my life long goals ( Yes, I’m going there). Since before I could spell my own name, I loved hockey. I played it, watched it, studied it - the game was all I ever wanted to do. And like most kids, I wanted to play in the NHL. Ask anyone who ever played the game in any form, and they will tell you that they played for, and won, the Stanley Cup countless times on the street, rink and gymnasium against a plethora of foes.
It was the dream. It’s what made winning that much more special. It was an unrealistic ideal that we had, but it added so much more to our pick-up games after dinner under the street lamp that we became obsessive, to the point of delusional.
"We lived in three places - the school, the church and the skating rink - but our real life was on the skating rink." - Roach Carrier - The Hockey Sweater
To be like Doug Gilmour –I realize I’m outing myself as a Leafs fan here– Mario, Gretzky and Selanne was the only thing that mattered. It kept us going through algebra and english class where we studied a story about some girl finding the glasses of her dead grandmother at a cabin in the middle of nowhere; and it like, fucking caused her to relive the life of her grandmother. I would say it’s the same idea as “Being John Malkovitch” but it was probably published before moving pictures– until we would catch a 15 minute game at recess. These hockey games, which were played with dangerously modified mini-sticks, were eventually banned by school administration in the fourth grade due to the constant fist fights that would inevitably break out, and rightly so.
None the less, the dream lived on. I used to imagine what it was like to step out of the dressing room at Maple Leaf Gardens, onto the unlit ice, with the iconic blue maple leaf on my chest and thousands of fans screaming while countless others watched at home on CBC Hockey Night In Canada.
But like so many dreams, this one failed to come to fruition for one reason or another. The older I got, the more the dream just became a dream. I remember watching Jonathan Toews in Stanley Cup final when his Black Hawks beat the Philadelphia Flyers and thinking,‘Man, this kid used to get his skates sharpened as a 13-year-old with his parents at Play It Again Sports. Now look at him. He’s like five years younger than I am.’
It was over, I was convinced.
Fast forward to last week, and I find myself in the MTS Centre press box for the matchup between my beloved Maple Leafs and the reinstated Winnipeg Jets. The Leafs looked tired and the Jets played a solid game, earning them a valuable two points in the tight Eastern Conference.
As the final seconds ticked down, I joined the procession of media peeps down to the basement for the post-game interviews and broke apart from the pack, heading left towards the visiting team’s dressing room.
I waited outside the dressing room with a handful of Toronto reporters and Ezra from Illegal Curve for Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson, who is a lot shorter than I imagined- and oddly relaxed and subdued despite the lack luster performance by his squad. The scrum ended, and we walked into the dressing room.
There they were. The Monster, Leafs’ captain Dion, Lupel, Mike Brown and his fearsome stache, all the guys I’ve watched on TV, getting changed after the game, eating pizza before hopping on a flight to Philadelphia. The smell of diesel and sweat mingled with the sombre mood of the dressing room, which was oddly both exactly, and nothing like I imagined it to be.
And it hit me. I was there. In some sort of ass-backwards way, I made it. I made it into an NHL dressing room, the ruckus fans could still be heard above celebrating the Jets’ win, and all I could do was stand there and smile. The dream which I had thought was gone forever, was playing out right in front of me, and when it fully clicked, all I could do was stand there and smile. This was the dream.
I had made it.