Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Hockey Life: Pleasant surprise

I hadn't been at work for more than 10 minutes one day last week when a visitor arrived at my desk. It was Mr. Joe, one of the paper's photo editors that day. Usually, when a photo editor stops by, it means one of two things: they have a photo for me to use in the next day's edition or, and this doesn't happen all that often, they have a question about how I "played" a photo.

This visit, though, was different. Mr. Joe didn't have a photo for me. Nor did he want to talk about a photo. Instead, he had something for Colin. And, what it was absolutely floored me.

It seems Mr. Joe was going through some papers in his desk at home and came across an old, folded-up envelope with two signatures on it. One read Bobby Hull, The other read Gordon Howe, who is more likely better known as Gordie Howe.

"I knew you and Colin like to collect hockey autographs, so I figured you'd give it a better home," he told me. "Will you give this to Colin for me?"

"Certainly," I told him. "But, really, Joe, these are two pretty big guys. They're Hall of Famers."

"Oh, I know. I know who they are," Mr. Joe said. "But, really, this doesn't mean that much to me."

Mr. Joe went on to tell me how he, as a teenager in Detroit in the mid to late 1960s, got these autographs. First, he recognized Howe after a game-day practice and had him sign the envelope.

"It was the only piece of paper I had with me," Mr. Joe explained.

Later that night, acting on a hunch, he found Hull at the Detroit airport.

"He was wearing a full-length mink coat. When I handed him the envelope, he looked at it and then at me," Mr. Joe recalled. "He told me 'I'm not going to sign below his name.' "

After Mr. Joe told me that story, I was even more stunned. Two Hall of Famers, still in their prime, in a single day and on a folded-up envelope. And, now, so many years later, he was passing along this piece of hockey history, so to speak, as well as one helluva story, to a member of a young generation of hockey fans.

All we can say, Mr. Joe, is thank you. We certainly appreciate it and will take care of it. I think finding a card of each player from around that time and getting all three pieces matted and framed will make for a nice father-and-son project in the days ahead.

An update

We had some good news Friday at the pediatric orthopedist. Thankfully, Colin won't need surgery to repair his broken collarbone, the result of a nasty hit from behind by his much bigger and taller team captain during a Brandon Jr. Bulls practice last Wednesday. Over the next month, he'll have to wear a figure-8 brace or a sling to keep his arm and shoulder immobilized as the broken bone heals.

He'll likely start doing some light skating in three weeks, but won't return to playing until being cleared by the doctor for contact. Honestly, after he season he had, it's likely good that he takes some time away. It wasn't how he, or we, wanted this season to end.

To his credit, Colin was in pretty good spirits as he attended the three games his Jr. Bulls teammates played this weekend, hanging out before and after games with them, at the State Amateur Hockey of Florida championship tournament down in Ellenton. The team finished 1-2, however, out of the medal round. We learned, later, that the team they beat eventually won the state title.

On Monday, the team will have a season-ending get-together at the Brandon rink. Colin and The Missus will attend, so he can say goodbye to some of his friends on the team. At the least, he'll be able to end his time with this organization on a positive note.

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