It started out as an idea we talked about a year or so back in the dressing room after a pickup game. This idea was to attend a tournament out of town. Make a weekend of it. Perhaps even a week over March break where those with significant others could combine a beach vacation with some hockey.
That idea came to life during a late April weekend in Montreal. Our fearless leader and defender of the crease, Gary Silver, lead the effort to get this organized. When he registered us back in December, he needed to make up a team name and chose “the wise guys” because he couldn’t think of anything better. One of the other boys who was all in for this weekend, Sean Thomas, organized a limo bus for transportation. We wisely chose to leave significant others at home and make this just about hockey.
Things started to head south when our recruitment drive stalled at around ten players. Those who had committed funds early to make this trip a reality emailed approximately 177, 216 of their email contacts to see if we could find another three or four skaters, but to no avail. A broken ankle removed one other from our roster just before the tournament, and a pulled groin another, although on the bus trip down, we did agree these were pretty weak excuses for not attending.
And so on Friday morning at 9:30, as we prepared to head to Montreal with eight skaters and a goalie, things headed further south when someone noticed a cut in one of the bus limo tires. Now if you ask me, I’ve seen bigger cuts on a toddler’s shins but in this age of liability-terrorism, we had to phone the bus company, CAA, the NHL and Homeland Security to determine if the bus was safe to drive. Predictably, it wasn’t. An hour and a half later, with a fresh tire on this limo, away we went.
From this point on, the weekend was magic. At one point on the weekend, someone suggested that this is what living was all about. And it really was. A bunch of clowns playing absurdly funny movies on the bus (who makes buses like this? with coolers, a big screen TV, faux leather couches, blinds, and wait for it….mirrored ceilings?), eating and drinking for eight hours on route to play a game we played as children. The funny thing about the absurdly funny movies is that they were only absurdly funny if watched on this particular weekend. Watched at home with anyone other than a full hockey team, these were just really funny movies.
We got to Montreal around 7:00 PM for our Friday night game. The rink was about 20 miles north of the downtown area and our bus driver left us as he had been driving long enough by this point that he would be breaking some law or insurance company provision if he hung around until after the game to take us to our hotel. Since the tournament provided shuttle buses to the hotel after the game, this was no big deal. Some of us chatted with Yvonne Lambert of the Habs and reminisced about his overtime goal in game 7 that sank Don Cherry’s Bruins in the ’79 semi-finals. (With only 8 skaters, we tried to recruit him too but no luck there. And man, is he still ever a big boy).
We played our game and won 2-1 against a good bunch of guys from Brampton (or Mississauga or somewhere west of Toronto) who had gone to Montreal early, drank too much and slept not enough the night before. After the game, we had to wait for several bus driver breaks before we were taken downtown on the shuttle to our hotel. Shortly after checking in, we hit the town, just after midnight. After a few drinks in lively pub, we headed for Dunn’s and had salads….er, meat sandwiches. Really fabulous smoked meat sandwiches and for those who were hungry (and there were a few guys who were since we ate dinner around 5:00 PM and got to Dunn’s around 3:30 AM), a side of poutine as a chaser. Then it was back to the hotel for a few hours sleep before getting up in time to grab some grub before boarding the 9:30 AM bus for our 11:00 AM game.
The 11:00 AM game was epic – there’s no other word to be used here. We trailed 2-0 early and looked every bit like the team that had been given the bum deal on the schedule and was forced to stay up way past our bedtimes. However, we fought back and not only tied it, but went ahead 3-2 with less than a buck to go.
And then came the turning point of the weekend. The goal that changed everything. With 30 seconds to go (or sometime pretty quickly after we had scored since most of us weren’t checking very hard when we were behind so playing with a lead meant we took our foot that much more off the pedal), the other team tied it. The significance of this goal was that instead of having a record of two wins and no losses and no ties after two games, which would have guaranteed us a game on Sunday, we were suddenly off the hook and with the right result Saturday night, could call it a weekend and go out on the town with no need to play again.
Now don’t get me wrong, I could never throw a game, even for a sleep-in (after t00 many Bushmill’s and smoked meat sandwiches) and early bus ride home. But if there were ever two reasons that in another life might make me throw a game, these would be the ones. However, Saturday night’s game proved to be another dandy but it was a game we had to win to play on Sunday. I never wanted to both win and lose a game so bad at the same time.
The other team looked awful young and appeared to have at least 3 lines. We knew they were trouble when lining up for the opening face-off, the ref commented on their age by saying the rest of them were still getting their skates tied up by their mom’s in the dressing room. Yikes. When they opened the scoring and did that Junior A thing of skating by their bench to get fist bumps from all their 6th grade buddies, we knew we could sleep in Sunday. We did play an honest game, a game to be proud of. We were tied 2-2 well past the mid point in the game and lost 4-2. Damn! Ya-baby!
After the game, it was back to bus, which we happened to share with what seemed like six other men’s teams, two ladies teams and a bartender. Back to hotel we went, and then out on the town for more of the same. Some of the boys got lost at times as we moved from place to place (we were real worried, but suspected they were in good hands) but we eventually all ended up back at Dunn’s for smoked meat and poutine round 2.
On Sunday morning, I decided I had enough juice to go for a run down by the waterfront. It was a fabulous morning. We met out front at 11:00 for some team pics, and boarded the bus for the trip home. As we waited for Sean, Carey yelled “Let’s go!”. “We have to wait for Sean” someone replied. “No, I meant let’s go…” and at that he got up from his seat on the bus and headed for the cooler which still had a few left to get us back to KW.
We’re already talking about next year and I suspect the recruiting will be easier. Can’t wait.