By the end of the morning, I had my vacation time booked from Shaw and a sitter all lined up for my boy, Shep.
I grew up on the game, whether it was being dragged to the rink to watch one of my three brothers play, watching the World Juniors with Dad every Christmas, dating a hockey player (there’ve been a few), studying the game’s history or writing about it for my lengthy sports journalism career.
I never once tired of the game, even during events like the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament, during which I could watch more than 25 games over the course of five days.
And now that I’m no longer in the business — I was laid off by the Calgary Sun in 2006 — I watch, I study and I learn. I’m as giddy as a 10-year-old every time I score seats to a Flames game at the Saddledome and I never feel more alive than when I hear the slash of skate blades across the ice.
Four Hockey Questions
Did/do you play hockey?
My hometown is Antigonish and when I was growing up, girls weren’t allowed to play hockey. They were allowed to figure skate, so I did. And they were allowed to date hockey players, so I did … much to my father’s chagrin.
Many years later, a friend, Brian Silverson, built a private ice rink in Kamloops where I was toiling as a sports writer, covering the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. He offered me hockey lessons. I couldn’t resist. I was already a strong skater, thanks to my figure skating, but I was hopeless with a stick in my hand.
And have you ever tried to stop skating backward when you don’t have toe picks? Yeah … face? Meet ice.
I played women’s league in Kamloops, learning from teammates who had won the Western AA championship and were much more skilled, and then connected with a team in Calgary when I moved here.
Alack, concussions started to catch up to me. My last game was on January 21, 2007, and I miss it every winter.
Most of all, I miss the smell of the ice.
Have you ever smelled the ice? Try it.
What is your earliest hockey memory?
My earliest hockey memories have little to do with the game … other than being in the rink. I would run around the building, under the bleachers and around the ice-cleaner room (we had no Zamboni, it was a tractor with some water dispensing thing on it), with the other non-playing kids until, inevitably, I would get yelled at by mother for tomfoolery.
We would sit there, watching Shane, Kevin or Jason play, and Mom would keep quiet. So would Dad, until whichever playing brother let a hand drop off his stick.
When I was playing, even though he had long since passed to the next life, I could still hear him bellowing ‘two hands’ — and I longed to tell him that’s not how it’s done anymore when you’re skating without the puck.
Are there any sessions to which you are particularly looking forward?
Major junior hockey is a pet topic of mine, after spending so many years on the beat in Kamloops. So I’m really looking forward to the session on Junior Development in the World on Tuesday afternoon.
Led by Cole Butterworth, the CHL’s marketing director, our moderators, speakers and panels will lead us on assessing the World Juniors, the Olympics and the NHL Draft. Apparently, European development is suffering and it may be impacted by migration to the Canadian major junior ranks or leaving for the NHL and AHL before they’re ready.
With most of my knowledge base in the WHL, we’ve seen our share of impact players — have you heard of a guy named Marian Hossa or Zdeno Chara — and we’ve seen our share of busts and never-wases.
But are two Euro players per team going to make a difference? Are those kids better off here, learning how the NHL works in a very similar atmosphere like Major Junior? Should they be learning North American culture, the language and ‘our game’?
Or would they be better off staying at home, where they might get more ice time if they aren’t ‘the guy’ or where they’re more comfortable in a place they know, with their friends and family?
Alexander Ovechkin did all right, staying at home and playing for Moscow Dynamo, didn’t he?
If there’s anyone you want to meet next week, who is it and why?
No hesitation to my response … Steve Yzerman. And anyone who knows me could have answered that for me. From the first picture I saw of Stevie Y (I still have it) to the day this week that I hopefully meet him, I have loved this man from afar.
At one time, I owned 23 different Yzerman bobbleheads and five different Macfarlane figurines. Then one day I woke up and realized my apartment looked like a 13-year-old boy’s bedroom. And I was a 30-something woman.
I hawked it all on eBay, mostly at a loss, but I’ve kept one bobblehead, which I believe is the first one ever issued, and more than 500 collector’s cards, from his rookie to a jersey card I scored in the early 2000s.
The consummate NHL leader of the modern era, Yzerman owned the Detroit Red Wings, more than Mike Ilitch ever could. He played with his heart and his head and we watched him grow from that bright-eyed kid pulling his Red Wings jersey over his head for the first time in 1983 to a three-time Stanley Cup champion and an NHL general manager.
And yeah, I know the Westsyde house where he lived for a year in Kamloops.