Saturday, April 25, 2009
"Hakan Loob was an incredible ping-pong player. Unbelievable"
This is my second straight year playing in something called the Baycrest International Pro-Am hockey tournament. It's a great event that, 1) Raises a crapload of money for Baycrest, a brain-illness research a care centre — more than $2 million this year; and 2) Allows dorks like me to smile like children while we play hockey alongside NHL alumni.
There are more than 50 teams this year, and you get to "draft" your player based on your fund-raising level. We put in a pretty good effort this year, and though I'm not my team's captain, I made it pretty clear: I want a Flame. Now, there are some pretty big names in this. Our team was picking around the middle of the pack, so Lanny McDonald, Gary Roberts and Doug Gilmour were out of the running. Taking a look at the list, I targeted one guy right from the start: Mike Bullard.
After some team took recently retired Islander Steve Webb, I'm pleased to report I've spend the last two days explaining to non-hockey-oriented friends and family that, no, I'm not playing with the onetime late-night talk show comedian, but the NHL 50-goal-scorer and really-nice-guy who now coaches second-division in Germany, and loves every minute of it.
The idea here is that your pro spends the whole weekend with your team, so things got started at the draft party Thursday night with some great conversation. First thing I wanted? Well, if you know this site, you know it would be something Hakan Loob related.
• Apparently the Flames would play doubles ping-pong endlessly after practice. Roberts and Nieuwendyk were a team, etc. But nobody would play Loob because he was too good.
• Terry Crisp wasn't the biggest fan of Bullard, nor Brett Hull and John Tonelli. So they made them linemates in 1988, and that was Bullard's 48-goal year. They called them the "WTF?" line.
• Bullard sold his house in Glenmore after being traded to the Blues, and during negotiations, the guy who was buying asked if he would throw in his Flames equipment. "No," Mike said. "What if I threw in an extra $5,000?" he asked. "Done."
• Stories about Roberts being a workout "animal" are all true, but he showed up at his first camp so out-of-shape, the Flames sent him home — that's what got him going. "Great guy."
Two more games today, in which Bully will surely, again, make a few opposing players look ridiculous with his pro moves. He even blocked a shot for us yesterday ("a career first! he said"). With a little help, I took a puck off the pro on the opposing team from our first game, Ken Houston (actually a Flame as well during the final Atlanta years and the first two in Calgary). So I'll try to do that today against the guys we're playing: Steve Thomas and Todd Harvey. Good luck to me.
Then the Flames tonight. I'm in hockey overload, but you'd better bet you're sure as Loob's a kickass ping-pong player that you're not going to hear me complain.