|Colin, center, with the Molnarovas, from left, Sofia, Zuzanna, Brano and Sara.|
The Molnarovas, friends of ours, were heading back home, across the border, after spending the past few years living down here in the Tampa Bay area. On that night, Brano, the father, was playing in an adult league hockey game. Sofia, his oldest daughter, invited Colin, to the game.
The night before, Colin and Sofia played their last game as teammates for the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars. After the game, the Molnarovas hosted a team party, giving everyone a chance to say good-bye. It was then, Colin tells me, that Sofia extended her invitation. Of course, Colin accepted.
Unfortunately, I had to work, both Saturday and Sunday nights, at the newspaper. That's why I said my good-byes the week before, thanking them for their friendship and sharing plans to see them again in a couple of summers.
It should come as no surprise that hockey was the common denominator for us.
From the kids' first shifts as linemates, we often sat together during games. As hockey dads, we talked about the sport, coaches and raising young hockey players. I'd see Zuzanna, the mother, at Lightning Made Clinics. There were times, too, when Brano would teach the kids how to use the edges of their skates, cutting back and forth, during on-ice games of tag during Sunday skates.
And, yes, it was Sofia who accompanied Colin on the night he served as the Lightning Dream Kid.
Going forward, we'll rely on email and the occasional postcard to stay in touch. We shouldn't be surprised, they told us, if we see them during a vacation to Florida. Still, I know someone who's looking forward to the summer of 2014. Actually, we all are.
That's when, if all goes according to plan, we'll take a two-week road trip to Toronto and, perhaps, Montreal. Besides visiting the Molnarovas, we'll hook up with Mr. Al, Colin's buddy within the Toronto Fire Services. Chances are we'll also check out the Hockey Hall of Fame and some restaurant called Gretzky's.
What I really hope to do, though, is watch the kids -- sisters Sofia and Sara, and Colin -- skate together again. It'll bring back nothing but good memories.