Being separated, during the outdoor game, from my perch atop the game as the Marlies’ broadcaster gave me ample time to use my eyes to see the part of the game that I think all fans want to touch. The side of the game that is…human. These are my observations as I drank in the excitement of the day and days leading up to it..
The Coats. A few days before the game Henning Aagard–Svendson told me to come visit him after practice. Lending on my considerable experience I had in mind that I had done something wrong (this goes back a loooong way to a missing quarter from Mom’s purse, age six) As it turns out he had a coat for me. A real beauty, I mean so nice it drew compliments from the players. “Sure is nice that the broadcaster got a coat!” they remarked. I like that quote Alan Arkin has in his latest movie, something along the lines of, I’m old I don’t get sarcasm anymore.
The Winter Classic in pixel form. Some of the talents on-ice translate to off-ice as an uber-Xbox NHL setup actually has the Winter Classic on it. I was taking video for Leafs TV but found myself about five seconds away from yelling, SCORES! Realism plus, and an odd sense of displacement as two professional hockey players, play pretend. It could be them on the front of that game some day.
Andrew McWilliam asking when I was going to stop taking pictures of them…I didn’t answer but sometime in June I hope.
The controlled rush to get to the ‘field’ at Comerica by the players, coaches and staff. Call this the teenage Christmas morning phenomenon. Too cool to rush downstairs to rip open presents too excited to stay in bed. You might think this big league style feeling would have worn off by now. This moment when you step out onto a playing surface, and are awed by it. It hasn’t, I’m not sure it does. I’m experienced enough not to be impressed by much…but I was impressed by this.
Meeting John Nelson with the Tigers. There are guys who belong in sports. They could be cast in sports movies. Nellie is one of them.
Chris Clarke, of Leafs TV, who is to my mind one of the one of the greatest family oriented guys I know, in the lobby of the hotel with his daughter and her boyfriend trying to decide on where to eat dinner and inviting me along. Then Stuart Percy came along, whom they billeted in Junior, and I’m sure was being recruited for dinner with the Clarkes too.
Missing that dinner as I worked with Mike Brock who produces the exceptional new show on Leafs TV, The Leaf. We both are enthusiastic storytellers at heart and ended up eating late, and talking much.
In one of my former lives I stood on the sideline of a Grey Cup where the snow came down hard. As some flurries began to appear, Jon Abbott remarked ‘Cue the snow!” and I couldn’t help but smile inside as I said the same thing in Hamilton circa 1996. That day I forgot to say ‘cut the snow’…I said it quietly but out loud prior to this game.
David Broll and Josh Leivo getting their picture taken on the ice as they walked around gazing up at the surrounding stadium. Two young guys who have no concept that this may be the only time in their careers they get to do this but are embracing the moment like it is.
Interviewing Luke Glendenning who was playing in his fourth outdoor game then got called up afterwards to appear in the classic at the Big House…his second time doing that particular outdoor rink.
Interviewing Korbininan Holzer in the morning skate as he stood on the rink and asking him two questions at the end that were completely useless simply because his teammates kept coming by to give him a playful whack below camera level each second he kept standing there.
Seeing Sherry Jean from the Marlies, who is the reason you are reading this on line and not having to look over my shoulder, come onto the field looking fashionable as always, but not dressed for the weather and thinking that I hoped she had a seat inside for this one. She did.
Taking a photo of the training staff and equipments guys an hour before anyone had arrived in the morning. Want some stress in your life? Try to equip a team for the multitude of weather situations of an outdoor hockey game. The relief on Henning Aagard-Svendson’s face was like seeing drapes being opened on a bright sunny morning.
Stealing Bob McGilll’s line about a player playing with his lip out. (sad to be sent down) I was looking straight at him and it was the only thing that would come to mind. Ah live broadcasting, it is a fickle beast. Sorry Bob.
Kenny Ryan returning to his hometown team’s house of hits. He grew up 15 minutes from home plate and it was clear something special was happening for him. When Paul Hendrick for Leafs TV interviewed him after the game I thought he was just a second or two away from exploding with joy.
Watching Kenny take a shot off his hand from twenty feet away. As a play by play guy you don’t get many chances to see a game from the boards. Clearly it hurts way more than I can articulate from the safety of the booth.
The Scratches. They didn’t know it but I felt their pain personally. Being taken from the chance to play in a big memorable game is never a great feeling. I knew it well this day as the national broadcasters stepped in to cover the game and I was a healthy scratch too. It happens in the AHL when they bring in the big boy cameras. I passed by the room a few times as they watched on TV. I stood at the boards for a bit with them. There is drama in this AHL lifestyle and it isn’t all call-ups and send downs.
Watching those young scratches play shinny in the morning until the old guys (alumni game practice) kicked then off the rink. It looked like the best morning skate ever.
Watching Paul Hendrick, excited to take a picture of the Alumni dressing room as he his eyes didn’t miss a moment to capture something special. He really is a fan of this game and was so excited to be rink side. I didn’t expect that. Both he and Chris Clarke who have been around sports and athletes for a long time had smiles from first to third base. I didn’t do anything but walk them out there but it was a cool feeling to be the conduit of pure hockey joy.
The Burns family in overtime, watching from the boards, Will, who is the Marlies assistant equipment guy, Nicole who produces for Leafs TV, and Dad Tom who helps out the equipment room on game days at home. Norman Rockwell may not have seen a painting in this but they all love this game and team at a very personal level and it was really moving to see them enjoy it together.
As the whole team picture (staff, coaches, players) was being taken on ice I was working with Leafs TV but I broke a wide smile as I saw Casey Winter, the team bus driver who is as much a part of the Marlies as anyone, come off the ice with them with the grin of a 10 year old boy. I watched from the post game/pre-bus meal with the Marlies way up in one of the stadium’s rooms as the folks from Leafs TV gathered at the end of the post game show to take a commemorative photo. Again that smile cracked as putting TV together is a bloodsport at times but the end result can bring all together like a championship has been won. Two teams got a win and deserved to celebrate with well-captured moments.
Andrew MacWilliam who informed me in a post game interview that he had actually played in an outdoor game at North Dakota, in the nicest possible way, after I asked him what it was like to play in his first game. “I hate to do this to you…”, he started and then told me about a rainy outdoor game in Omaha. I’ve made worse mistakes in my career, will make many more, but that was the nicest way to be told I made one.
The print guys chirping me and Armando the Leafs TV camera op, in the post game, as they had to wait for Steve Spott as we finished up with the player TV interviews in the room. I deferred to their scrum questions as a sign of respect for me holding up the process. There is civility in the media, believe it or not.
Steve Spott for admitting the team benches had heaters in the post game press conference.
Likely I will never be mistaken for a type A personality. I’m far more about experiencing the moment than planning the moment but my past as the Tiger-Cats Director of Operations came back on me as I spent a ridiculous amount of time wondering how much this whole thing cost and how long it would take to break down at the end of it.
The satisfying feeling of coming indoors at the end of a cold day.
Wherever you enjoyed the game I hope you were warm.