Toronto/Sarnia, ON This week was definitely the most interesting yet since my unfortunate return from Japan. That’s right, I said ‘unfortunate.’ I’m really starting to regret leaving the place where I had several steady paychecks for our struggling NHL-less economy! And from what I’ve seen/heard this week, I don’t think things will be changing anytime soon.
Last week Patrick Burke, one of the founders of the You Can Play Project, was nice enough to ask me to come out to the annual PrimeTime S&E Sports Management Conference in Toronto, and help hold down the You Can Play fort for the duration of the two day event. Maybe it was the fact that I was Vice President – Recruitment for my sorority in university (and I’d just like to add that I ran the most successful recruitment campaign my chapter had experience in nearly two decades OR has experienced since – thankyouverymuch!), but I obviously jumped all over this opportunity, as I absolutely LOVE working the trade show circuit, especially for such a good cause.
For those of you who didn’t catch my last post (sort of) about the You Can Play Project, then here’s a brief rundown. The You Can Play Project essentially aims to make the locker room a safer place for all athletes, where they can be judged solely on their skill, talent, and character, and not their sexual orientation. Of course, the root of the issue lies not (entirely) at the professional level, but at the amateur level where the young future stars of the game are often made to feel like they must give up their passion due to a hostile and homophobic atmosphere in the locker room.
As hockey fans, we all know that the chemistry in the locker room can be just as important as the chemistry on the ice. We have all seen what can happen when a guy comes along and disrupts that delicate balance for whatever reason i.e. sleeping with another player’s wife, and what that can do to the success of our club. While infidelity is obviously a fair reason for hostility in the locker room, a player’s sexual orientation is not. Hopefully with the work that the You Can Play Project is doing we will see more LGBT athletes in professional sport in the future.
And now back to me.
On Day 1 of the conference I had to leave after lunch, as I already had plans to be at the Subway Super Series game in Sarnia that night before being asked to come out to the event. Kind of wish I knew about the event earlier because it sounds like the last few hours of the day were quite interesting, and I think I may have rather been there for that, than to see Nail Yakupov make a return to his old barn. Anyway, the lunch was a bit revealing, I thought. Gord Miller emceed a panel discussion on the NHL Lockout, and when the crowd, which consisted of several heavy hitters in professional sport – including two NHL GMs, was asked if they thought there would NHL hockey this year, well, not very many people raised their hands (including me). Eep.
Lunch ended at 2PM, and I literally bolted out of the Westin Harbour Castle, site to many prior Psycho Lady indiscretions in seasons past, in hopes of narrowly missing the (now constant) rush hour traffic – I didn’t, by the way. Naturally it poured the entire way to Sarnia, too! I don’t think I have ever actually driven down the 402 in non-extreme weather conditions in my entire life. If it’s not a total white out, then it’s torrential rain, I guess!
I barely made it in time for the warm up, and actually sprinted across the parking lot to the front gates. Not missing the warm up is #2 on my list of rules for attending hockey games. Not leaving before the final buzzer is #1. I am also happy to report that RBC Centre was jammed that night. Last season, the place was practically empty the night former Sting player, Steven Stamkos, scored his 53rd NHL goal on his epic run for 60. It was the first round of the OHL playoffs, too, but my friend, a local, informed me that the fans in Chemical Valley are so disillusioned with the team, that they don’t usually bother showing up until the second round. Sarnia wouldn’t end up seeing second round action that year, unfortunately.
However, in Sarnia, everyone loves Yakupov! I should know. I was just lucky enough to be planted in the middle of a little-boy hockey team for the duration of the game. The kids must have been about 6 and 7 years olds, high on sugar, and under minimal parental supervision. Yeah, if there was still a small chance of me ever procreating, that’s definitely down the toilet now. Anyway, when the kids weren’t being totally obnoxious for the sake of being obnoxious, then they would often scream at the big, red machine that was Team Russia, “BOO EVERYONE BUT YAKUPOV!!!!”
Team Russia was an intimidating presence on the ice, despite falling to Team OHL 2-1. I don’t know what it is about red uniforms, but I remember going to see the Red Wings back in the day, and as soon as they stepped onto the ice they were literally a big red machine, that instantly made their opponents seem much weaker and less organized. Team Russia is like that. They were visibly bigger, taller, and spicier than Team OHL. And I don’t feel creepy about saying that Yakupov is spicy, as the woman sitting next to me asked me if one of the Team OHL players was my boyfriend! So, obviously my assumed age was somewhere between 15 and 20! Clearly my 17 y/o disguise was a bigger success this season!
I thought the age thing was a fluke until I arrived back at the Westin for Day 2 of the conference. I noticed early that morning that people were speaking to me like I was a high school student needing to apply for universities this month. I was baffled, but then I remember that I darkened my hair again, and that always shaves off a few years. Who knew it would shave off so many, though?! Blondes may have more fun, but they also look worn out a lot faster!
Anyway, despite the fact that the agenda for Day 2 seemed a lot more fun than Day 1, it was a VERY slow day. Gary Bettman was scheduled to be the keynote speaker that afternoon, but, due to obvious circumstances, he had to withdraw from the conference, and I think many people withdrew right along with him.
I did slip away from the You Can Play booth that afternoon to sit in on the panel discussion about the use of Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media in professional sport. It wasn’t as interesting as it sounds, unfortunately. While I was in there, however, I had a brief run in with the Leafs GM, Brian Burke. If you didn’t know this (even I didn’t really know this until this week), if you are the GM of the Leafs, then you pretty much own all of Toronto. Brian Burke might as well be the mayor!
Anyway, as I was watching the discussion on social media, the GM had to pop out of the room for a bit, but not before giving me and my You Can Play shirt that hard, truculent Brian Burke stare that we all love here in Toronto. Brian Burke is the father of Patrick Burke, and so I naturally started to feel like I was getting the slacker stare down for leaving the booth unattended – even though they told us we could leave our booths during the actual discussions since everyone was in the conference hall anyway! It’s not my poor work ethic, I swear LOL!
I guess I learned this week that I draw the line at NHL coaches. You all know that NHL coaches don’t intimidate me, what with my brazen drink and dessert exchanges with them and such, but apparently GMs can still put the fear of God in me. It’s kind of nice to know that something still can!
Due to the absence of Gary, the event ended on an anticlimactic note, much like my love life SNAP! However, my week was still getting weirder. The week before a producer at MTV Canada had tracked me down, and asked me to come in and audition for a show she is producing. Well, you probably know how much I hate cameras, and how I would need a lot of coaxing to actually go on TV, but I did think it might be an interesting opportunity. After all, the reason I started this website was because I had interest from a TV producer/writer to turn the content of my book into a TV show or movie, and I thought this site would be a good way to keep the material flowing. Who knows if that show will ever happen, but I definitely thought I might like to feel these MTV people out a bit – not to be on their show, but just to talk shop a bit.
I had immediate regrets about my decision to head down to MTV after I was escorted into a room where four Jersey Shore wannabes, who clearly took this thing really seriously, were waiting to audition. Luckily, I was called in first. Three of the producers had assembled a massive document on essentially my best (or worst) Psycho Lady Hockey posts, tweets, and photos. Then they proceeded to bombard me with a whirlwind of questions like, “What’s a WAG whore!?” Unfortunately, my reconnaissance mission couldn’t even get off the ground in that atmosphere, but whatever. Oh and don’t go looking for me on MTV anytime soon. Even if I do “make the cut,” there’s no way in Hell I’m agreeing to go on TV!
Top Photo: Working hard or hardly working?