Hey Gongers, haven’t posted anything in a while. Hopefully as the summer approaches, I’ll get more up here as school finishes (still in grade 11, ugh), and I get more time to focus on writing and other things. So I decided to share a story- or make that a group of stories- that make up the best week of my life so far. To start, we’ll go back to late 2009. As you Canadians probably remember, there was an extra amount of promotion due to the upcoming Vancouver Olympics. After seeing an online ad, I applied to be a Torchbearer for the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics, which immediately followed the Olympics. The Paralympic Relay was a smaller, 10 day version of the Olympic version, which took place entirely in B.C. The application process was simple: Write a few hundred words about why you would make a good Torchbearer. If you were selected, you had to find your own way there. As you may know, I live in Toronto. If you remember from my last blog, my parents said that my Stanley Cup trip to Tampa Bay was a “one-time thing.” But, they decided, if I was somehow selected, they’d pay for this trip too. In my application, I wrote about how I had done charity work with Achilles Canada, a track club for disabled runners, I once guided a blind runner in a 5k Race, and I was a fan of all sports. I didn’t expect to get picked, but it was worth an effort. To my surprise, I was one of just 600 chosen to carry the Paralympic Torch. Roberto Luongo and Rick Mercer were two of the other 599, which included ex Olympians, Paralympians, charity workers, and me. After being selected, my dad and I flew out to Vancouver. My parents decided they’d find a way to pay for it, and that they couldn’t let cost deter what would be an amazing trip. We stayed in Vancouver for two days, then drove to Hope, B.C. , where I carried the torch that night. Really, it was great, an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. I could tell you about it for hours. But it’s not a hockey story. So I’ll tell you that one. Arriving in Vancouver on Sunday, March 7, 2010, we were exactly one week removed from Sidney Crosby’s golden goal. We got to go around the area of Canada Hockey Place (GM Place), see all the Olympic paraphernalia, and a city that was just a week removed from their biggest party ever. It was sweet. But the best was yet to come. Being a hockey fan, we had to go check out the WHL. The closest team that was playing was the now defunct Chilliwack Bruins, who were taking on the Vancouver Giants, that Sunday night. A few weeks in advance, my dad had told a team PR person that I’d be in attendance as a Torchbearer, and was wondering if they could give me a mention over the PA, or a quick recognition. He one upped us- and decided I’d be dropping the opening faceoff. And since you’ll be reading this, you’re the best, dad. Thanks. Before the game, I was led down to the penalty box area, where I walked onto the ice. There was another woman dropping the puck too. But if you asked me her name, what she looked like, or what she was there for, I couldn’t tell you. I was too shocked. She was with some charity organization, that much I do remember. Captaining the Giants was Craig Cunningham, currently of the Providence Bruins in the AHL. Brandon Manning was Chilliwack’s captain, who now plays Adirondack Phantoms, and was called up for 4 games with the Philadelphia Flyers this year.
Not a bad group of guys in that faceoff! So me and the other woman decided we’d do the puck drops one after another. The other woman dropped the puck first, and the pair of us shook hands with the captains. I was ready for my big moment, but something went wrong. Brandon Manning skated away. So there I was, and my huge smile quickly turned to a look of “Where the f—k are you going?” Luckily, one of the Bruins’ players talked some sense into Manning, who turned around and returned to the faceoff circle. We then tried again and the faceoff was successful, and my short time in front of the crowd was over. But that wasn’t my end of the spotlight for that night. Before the game, I was given a tour of the team’s press box, which involved meeting the team’s radio play-by-play, Randy Merkeley. Mr. Merkeley had heard through word of mouth that I was coming from Toronto for the Torch Relay and the game, and requested an interview in the first intermission. We talked hockey, about the Olympics and the NHL, the torch relay, the failed puck drop, and my journey in B.C. so far. Surprisingly, we took up about 10 minutes, which I guess meant he liked me enough to keep me on for that much time. Dropping the puck and the interview will never compare to the torch run, which is an entire experience in itself. But, to be part of that pregame ceremony would have been enough to make the trip something I’d never forget. It’s a shame that Chilliwack’s no longer a WHL franchise, because it’s probably one of the most amazing rinks I’ve been to. It’s unfortunate they had to move on, but that’s just how things go in junior hockey. The whole trip as a whole was surreal and I’ve been itching to go back to B.C. ever since then. It’s a dream of mine to see all 60 CHL teams play at their home rinks, and I fully intend one day to drive around B.C and the rest of Western Canada to see all the WHL action I can. Who’s with me?