Sunday morning homily XIII

Looking back, I'm surprised at just how subdued I was when getting Wayne Gretzky to sign a Team Canada puck last week. Even with our autographed-puck collection nearing the 1,200 milestone, it did have some notable gaps, primarily one from The Great One.

Going in to Tuesday's hounding session, I was setting my sights elsewhere. I had heard the horror stories and rumors about Gretzky. He never stays with the team. He never signs for big crowds. Or, simply, he never signs. There was even a rumor floating that the Coyotes would fly in from Miami, where they had played the Panthers three nights earlier, just in time to make the game.

Because of that, I was viewing Grant Fuhr, the team's Hall of Fame goalie coach, as my key player, so to speak.

After arriving at the team's Harbour Island hotel, I nearly missed getting Fuhr as I was still setting up the 20-plus pucks and one game-used stick I brought to get signed. Thankfully, though, I was able to find the old Buffalo Sabres logo puck for Fuhr.

A few minutes later, there was sudden movement with the crowd of 30 to 35 collectors and dealers. At first, I thought it was Jeremy Roenick or Shane Doan, two of the most-willing signers in the NHL. It wasn't until I got a better look did I recognize that it was Gretzky.

"Holy s***," I said out loud, while snagging the Team Canada puck. "Gretzky's signing!"

I joined the fray, thinking that he'd sign only a few and I might have to use my bulk to even stand a chance. I soon realized, though, that Gretzky was well on his way toward signing for the house. I couldn't believe it.

Only now, when I look at that puck, tucked safely away in a display case, is it finally starting to sink in that, yes indeed, Wayne Gretzky, God's gift to hockey long before Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby became hockey household names, added to our collection.

Thanks, Wayne.

If it's Friday, it'll be Boston

A couple times during the season, NHL teams have to deal with a busy stretch of the season -- three games in five nights or four games in seven. And when it comes at this time of the year, when teams begin ramping up the playoff effort, you know the games are going to be intense.

As a hound down here in the Tampa Bay area, an upcoming seven-day stretch will be just as intense, with four teams and a ton of talent, presenting itself.

Beginning Tuesday, when the Panthers (Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester) come to town, the Lightning will host the Boston Bruins (Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard), Pittsburgh Penguins (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury) and Dallas Stars (Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen and Marty Turco).

Thankfully, I had the foresight to take off some time in the days ahead. Granted, we expected (Colin, especially) some Bay State company about now, but that, uh, fell through. Either way, I'll put the time to good use and add to the collection.

What were they thinking?

Can someone tell me, please, why in God's name would NBC schedule such a premiere matchup as the Capitals-Penguins, meaning Alexander Ovechkin vs. Crosby, at nearly the same time as America's greatest race, the Daytona 500?

Granted, NASCAR and the NHL are about as far apart as sticker tires and hockey sticks. But there are some people, namely me, who might want to watch both without having to flip channels every 30 seconds.

Besides, I want to see what unconscionable act that NHL on NBC analyst Brett "The Bully" Hull will pull this week. My money's on him planting a foot in a crease.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good going on getting the Gretzky autograph. We can't hound at the hotel here in Raleigh because they run you off. When the Coyotes came in for a practice at the arena a day before their game against the Canes, Gretzky went straight to the coaches bus and took off. There were maybe 13 people there and the ambassador of hockey couldn't take five minutes or less to come over and sign on an off day. Anyway congrats again on adding Gretzky to your impressive collection.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Puckhound said...

I should have put this in the original posting, but the only other time we got autographs from Wayne Gretzky was in Greensboro, N.C.

We got him on a Rangers jersey and a card after New York's morning skate at the Coliseum.

There were only six of us, so it was a small crowd.

Then again, small crowds were common during the Canes' first two years in North Carolina. I'm glad that has changed in recent years.

Anyways, thank you for the kind words.

2:01 PM  

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