Many years ago my dad took me to see the great Gretzky play hockey a short while before he ever played in the NHL. It was the WHL All Stars playing against the Moscow Dynamos at the Edmonton Northlands Coliseum in 1979.
During that historic game the Waynester played on a line with Mr. Hockey – Gordie Howe, and Gordie’s son, Mark Howe.
Even though I was only eight at the time, I can still recall that cold but exciting January night with vivid detail. My dad and I had great seats. We sat not far from the glass and to the right of the WHL bench. The skinny kid from Brantford Ontario, who was only 17 at the time, danced in his unique, almost shuffle-like stride, up-and-down the ice alongside Mr. Howe – the helmet-free, grey-haired, elder-statesman of hockey. That night the slick All Stars, led by the H2G line, beat the spirited team from Moscow.
I remember my dad recognizing the potential of Gretzky at the time, and how he was careful to take several photos of the historic line-pairing, which saw the youngest All Star playing with the oldest – number 99 skating beside his long-time idol, number 9.
Here is a look back to January 1979, and a very young Wayne Gretzky play with Mr. Hockey:
I reflected on that game yesterday afternoon as I contemplated getting some last-minute tickets for my 8-year-old to see his favourite player, Sidney Crosby, who was about to play here in Ottawa a mere three hours later.
It didn’t take more than a few seconds to realize how special it is for a young boy to see his favourite hockey player. It also occurred to me that it might be a long time until we get the chance to see Crosby play again, as we now anticipate relocating back to Alberta this summer and it could be hard to see the eastern conference Pens play out west.
I jumped on Kijiji and immediately saw an ad for two surprisingly cheap seats – to my luck the ad was just posted. I called the seller and within 30 mins was holding a pair of tickets for the sold-out special. Believe it or not, I paid below face-value for two seats, which ended up being on the very last row of the nose-bleeders, which is totally fine with me. One hundred bucks for two tickets to see Crosby and the Pens play the Sens in a play-off race on a Saturday night is a steal of a deal.
I became quite excited thinking about how happy Alistair would be upon hearing that we had tickets to the game. (In hindsight I should have filmed his reaction because when I told him his eyes lit up so bright and I’ve never seen him smile wider). Despite our excitement we had to keep it a little secret since we didn’t want his little brother Fin (who is just becoming a hockey fan now) to feel sad, since we only had two tickets. We quickly snuck out of the house under the guise that Alistair had a hockey “function” to attend – which was the honest truth
Anyway, the game was super. As newly faithful Sens fans, we both cheered for Ottawa, but also, like thousands of others, delighted in seeing Crosby. In fact it was interesting to hear the very loud cheer that went up when Crosby first hit the ice for the warm up 30 mins before game time. You’d think a rock-star walked into the room, which of course one did, in a way.
Thankfully the Sens won 8-4. It was fun to see so much offence, and also fun to see the Sens win an important game as they seek to nail down a playoff spot. Crosby didn’t disappoint either. He made a world-class spin-o-ramma back pass to assist on the Pens second goal, and he later added a wicked, laser to the back of the net, top-shelf.
As impressive as he was though, after keeping a close eye on #87 throughout the game, I felt there were times that Crosby seemed to throttle-back a bit – he seemed to pick his spots and coast once in a while, as opposed to going with the all-out intensity which he is known for. That said, he is obviously just back from a career threatening injury, so it may take him a while yet until he plays with the same reckless abandon. Crosby was clearly out-shone by Daniel Alfredson last night who ended up with 4 points compared to Crosby’s two.
So, it was a fun night, especially watching my son Alistair watch Crosby. I’m pretty sure he had a similar look on his face as the one I had on my face watching Gretzky alongside my dad years ago in Edmonton.
Included below are a couple shots from the game, and also a clip from the stunning operatic version of the national anthem by Measha Brueggergosman, where, as a friend put it, high culture met hockey culture – it didn’t work at first, but by the end everyone was loving it.
Link to the game highlights: http://video.senators.nhl.com/videocenter/console?hlg=20112012,2,1120