Barrie, ON 12 hours of sleep and a 2 hour massage later, I was in a MUCH better mood for Hockey Night in Barrie. After much reflection, I decided to look at the positives in my cross-world move. Sure, things were left to the very last minute, but it could have been worse. The clock could have run out completely and then where would I be, right? Despite my new zen-like attitude, I still had to pop an unholy amount of extra strength Advil to keep the stress migraines at bay during the game, and I noticed myself spacing out at the HNIB after party quite a few times, too! Luckily, Shayne Corson’s magnetic cologne was able to jolt me back to reality every now and then – Oh, yes!
My new positive outlook aside, I’m pretty sure it’s practically impossible to be in a bad mood at Hockey Night in Barrie! HNIB took charity hockey games to a brand new level. Have you ever noticed that alumni/charity games often come off as lazy? It’s like whoever is in charge must think that throwing a bunch of former and current NHL stars on the ice is all they have to do! The concessions are usually functioning at 30% capacity, and a couple half-assed raffles are typically assembled on high school cafeteria quality fold away tables! What is this? Amateur Hour?!?!?!
Now, maybe for some of you, the on-ice attendance is what matters in charity events. Yeah, it’s nice to see big name players skating around for a good cause and all, but I’m crazy and, therefore, I demand proper entertainment if gracing any arena with my creepy, rink-stalker presence! Anyway, despite my unreasonable standards for measuring a successful hockey event, Hockey Night in Barrie completely blew me away!
A lot of effort went into making Hockey Night in Barrie the hockey charity event of the season! Major stars like Steven Stamkos and Corey Perry, new Leaf, David Clarkson, and my high school crushes, Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker (to name a few), not only agreed to skate for the event, but also to take pictures, sign autographs, and mingle with fans all night long at the after parties! It’s refreshing to see NHL players who are still comfortable with taking down the velvet rope and brushing shoulders with the fans. Yes, they even let ME into the after party at Corson’s Genuine Food and Drink, but I was mostly just there for another slice of the coconut cream pie I fell in love with last season. Oh, and to sniff spicy retired NHL players, naturally!
Some other highlights from Hockey Night in Barrie included a personal video message from the Trailer Park Boys – evidently, Ricky forgot about the invitation for he and Bubbles to come to the game, and Julian showed much disdain for their usual stupidity with drink in hand. There was an intermission performance from Kurt Browning. You might remember him from all the pro-reading posters in your grade school libraries, or the Olympics, whatever. There were some nice looking auctions that you could bid on from the comfort of your seat if you had one of them newfangled smart phones. Take note, cafeteria table users! And who could forget Eddie Shack in a cowboy hat! It was just a good night all around at Barrie Molson Centre!
Of course, being crazy, certain parts of the night did depress me in regard to moving to my soon-to-be 5th country of residence. You know how some girls hate to be the last of their friends to get married, have kids, graduate from a training bra, whatever? Well, I don’t care about that shit, but I have often found myself using hockey players to measure my own personal growth. Back in my OHL days, it was always a bit depressing when some of my favourites would get drafted and move on to bigger and better things, especially if there was some personal history there. I’ve never been sure what it was that I found depressing exactly, but I guess it had something to do with those players being on my level one minute (high school kids) and then suddenly not the second they signed their first NHL contract.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all my old OHL faves doing well. I still feel a scout’s pride for knowing, at the age of 16, who was going places and who wasn’t, especially since all my former girl friends were too busy going crazy for whoever they thought they might have a shot with (no one as it would turn out, by the way). I suppose, though, that when a player graduated from one of my OHL teams, I always felt like I was failing in my own life, and all through my history of hockey psycho-dom, it has always stung a little to see them sign bigger and bigger contracts, get married, have kids, when I still feel like I haven’t grown up yet.
Take David Clarkson (the HNIB depression trigger) for example. It seems like only yesterday that he was lacing them up for the Kitchener Rangers. I remember one afternoon, my friend and I had gone to Subway for lunch – back when we were young and bread wasn’t the enemy. As we pulled up, we saw a dusty black car carelessly parked in a tow-away zone in front of the restaurant. The #17 was drawn into the dirt on the driver’s side door. Sure enough, inside the restaurant was “Wendel” Clarkson and Mike Richards. Upon seeing two females enter the otherwise empty sandwich establishment, Clarkson immediately puffed up like a peacock and started talking LOUDLY about not having ICE TIME in PRACTICE that day, while staring at the two of us, I might add. Richards, the Captain, clearly had no idea why Clarkson felt the need to remind him of this, and essentially brushed off the comment with a quiet, “Yeah.”
I suppose in my head David Clarkson will always be the young guy who had to use the hockey player card in order to get girls to talk to him, but the reality is he’s grown up and living the dream. He’s married with child and has a fancy new Leafs contract under his belt, if that’s not what every young Toronto hockey player dreams of, then I don’t know what is (give or take the wife and kids thing)!
Truthfully, I haven’t REALLY thought about this stuff since I was 19 or 20, but with this move to the Middle East, it has all come charging to the foreground. When I made the decision to go to Japan, I told myself that it had to be the last time I left because if I went away a third time, there would be nothing to come back to. With the decision to close a few more doors and head to Saudi Arabia, I have also had to accept that everything will be different back home in Hockey Land if I ever do come back. How many more of my secret favourite hockey players will blow past me professionally? How many of my friends will be unmarried when I come back? Seriously, probably none this time! Even my babies (read: cousins) won’t be small anymore when I come back after this!
Now it’s not all bad. Maybe outgrowing “home” isn’t a horrible thing. I could see myself with a summer place in Spain, the South of France, or Laos, and have no need to ever venture to this side of the planet again. These aren’t pipe dreams, by the way, they are very real options at this point. Apparently, Thailand is a favourite summer residency among expats in Saudi Arabia.
All the travel possibilities are keeping me sane through these hectic final days, and after promising to visit my friend in Europe this winter, I realized that I didn’t need to totally give up hockey either. The Swedish Hockey League (formerly Elitserien) is fairly close to her, and I’m flirting with the idea of stalking the arenas of the SHL this season! Some of you will probably be happy to read that!
Of course, in true Psycho fashion, my hockey world is always full of drama. After my friend agreed to a potential SHL adventure, I began researching what teams were closest to her, and decided to click on the 2013-14 roster for the nearest one. I was shocked to discover a VERY LARGE chunk of my dramatic and scandalous history listed on that roster, and I suddenly realized that no matter where I go in world, the past is one thing I can’t run away from.
As for the guy, I was pleasantly surprised to see him clawing his way back up through the ranks. He was my only bad scouting call, although I’ve always believed it was his attitude that kept him from reaching his full potential – first entitlement, then low self-esteem. After his first NHL contract expired, he wasn’t offered another, which wasn’t a surprise since he was barely hanging on at the end there. The last time I “saw” him he was already talking about getting out of the game. Perhaps not unlike how I fled to Asia, he fled to Europe and had been, until now, in hiding in a virtually unknown league. To see him come back and join one of the best leagues in the world, gives me hope that I, too, can come back from my imagined oblivion. Anyway… There’s a good chance that I will ignore the temptation and take the high road by avoiding him and his new arena this winter, but I will definitely be cheering him on (symbolically) for both our sakes…
Tags: Hockey Night in Barrie