Ladies who love their hockey

Dallas-Stars-New-Logo-2014Featured in November 2008 on my silly little sports blog (Crazy Lil Sports Lady), which some of you may remember, was a series of three posts about my top 15 hockey memories. I dug through my memory at the time to honor the Stars’ first appearance at the Staples Center that season, since I lived in LA. Most of my LA friends and probably some of my Dallas friends had very little clue how big a hockey fan I was in my younger years. Definitely not saying I’m no longer a fan, because I still love the Stars and hockey more than the Cowboys and football even (no really). It just doesn’t quite, what’s the word, consume me like it did from late middle school to early college. And I’ve not allowed myself to get too attached for years. The reasons I retired from the super fandom are many. One, I grew up. That tends to happen, I hear. Two, I fell madly in love with the movie business and decided that was my official path. Three, I saw what was happening to and around me and it freaked me out. I’ve met many women over the years, across multiple sports and additional fandoms (mostly music), who let it overtake their lives. Why they choose to do so is their business, not ours. I don’t judge; I just didn’t want it to happen to me. Not to mention, a lot of things changed when the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999. The original generation of fans that were around beforehand know what I mean; it’s just not the same. But don’t get me wrong, I certainly wouldn’t change the fact we did win…IT WAS A GOAL AFTER ALL, Y’ALL.

Having said that, since I moved  back to Dallas in 2010 I have reconnected with some old hockey friends and met some absolutely wonderful new ones via the Stars fandom on Twitter. And you guessed it…the majority of them are beautiful, well-rounded ladies. For the official record, there are few things in this world more fierce than a true female hockey fan. If you’ve ever been exposed to one on any level, myself included back in the day, you know what I mean. We’re no joke.

I’ll go ahead and state what you’re all thinking. Hell yes hockey players are hot. We’re not blind or stupid. They can wear a suit like no other collective group of men on the planet. It’s got to be something in their genetics; it’s that ridiculous. Oh here’s your first hockey stick, honey, and oddly enough this Armani suit came with it. Strange. That observation aside, that’s not what attracts us to the sport. It just, you know, doesn’t hurt. Hockey brings a passion to the table that other sports don’t and can’t. Unless you’re into it, you don’t and won’t understand.

I went to my first game since pre-season last night. My friend Taylor graciously gave me tickets and one of the first things she said once we met up were “I better see this on your blog.” Oh, I’ve been waiting for this. The good news is I still have access to my posts from 2008. So here they are. Hope you’re comfy. I wanted to share again, under this context (read: to prove my point that girls can be real fans, too!) and to share a little trip down memory lane for my newer Stars friends, with whom I hope to make new memories very, very soon. Please note I didn’t make any edits to this, so add five years to the timeline and remember some of it has changed. For example, Morrow is no longer with the Stars and Langenbrunner is retired. Sad face. When I originally wrote this I’d been a hockey fan for 15 years. Now it’s 20. TWENTY!!! Good lord, I’m going to drink now…

Originally published 11/10-12/2008:

In honor of the Stars first appearance at the Staples Center this season and celebrating 15 YEARS of hockey fandom, I’ve decided to put together a list of my Top 15 Favorite Hockey Memories. I am totally stoked about this. This is the first of three entries. There are many, many wonderful experiences and as hard as it was to choose, I’ve no doubt I picked the cream of the crop. And apparently I didn’t have much of a life outside of hockey from 1998 to 2000. As much as I talk about football, I am known amongst family, friends and former classmates back in Dallas/Denton for being a ridiculously ginormous hockey fan. And I am proud of it. It’s shaped who I am today.

My room in high school, no joke!

For example, when I was home for my 10-year high school reunion last month, a fellow classmate asked “you’re still a hockey fan I hope? Please tell me you’re still a hockey fan…cause it’s you.” Our senior year we put our hand prints on the wall in paint, mine is signed with my name and a big star. One of my congratulatory ads in the senior yearbook? Included a photo of me and Jamie Langenbrunner.

When I started this blog (Crazy Lil Sports Lady), it wasn’t meant to be another armchair quarterback’s analysis of the most recent game or what the team could do better. I obviously know enough to hold decent conversations at the sports bars and do a fair amount of trash talking, but I leave the details to the big guns like Blogging the Boys. They do a MUCH better job of logically saying what is in my head. Therefore, this blog is about me and my life as a chick who loves her some sports and my experiences. So the memories listed over the next three posts aren’t lessons in Stars history…they’re MY hockey history.

Some of these I will go into more detail in future posts…once I find the pictures! I’ve already frightened a couple of people by mentioning I’m doing this. Ah, the power of the interwebs! I hope y’all enjoy, you’re about to find out where the Crazy in Crazy Lil Sports Lady came from. Please note, we’re going in chronological order. Starting with…

The movie that started it all.

1. 1993: The Mighty Ducks. The film hit movie theatres in 1992, home video sometime in 1993, which is how I saw it. I remember sitting on the floor of the living room when it was over thinking, oh my god, hockey is the coolest sport EVER. Screw football! (I know, imagine that…I was 13, obviously confused and going through an identity crisis or some such).

Amid the second or third viewing within 24 hours (seriously) my mom popped into the living room during the scene in which the team visits the North Stars and announced “oh, that’s the team that is moving to Dallas.” COME AGAIN?! Once this was confirmed by more reliable sources than a mom, I dumped Christian Slater as my celebrity boyfriend at once for Mike Modano. (Again…confused).

That October I watched the first Dallas Stars game on my tiny TV, began clipping out any article with the words “Mike” and “Modano” joined together and well, it just gets better…

2. 1994: My first trip to the StarCenter/meeting Mike Modano. I saved my lunch money (much to the chagrin of my mother once she found out) for an entire semester in 8th grade for a Modano jersey. At which point she drove me to Valley Ranch to purchase it. Valley Ranch, as most of you know, is the infamous home of the Dallas Cowboys home office and training facility. They’re indoor practice facility can be seen for miles, a big white tent with a HUGE blue star on the outside. But a few blocks down Cowboys Parkway finds one at the very first StarCenter and original practice rink for the club. My second home during high school. As far as I know, you can still see where my friend Emily and I wrote our names on the original rink in 1996.

Modanos car, back in the dayAnyhow, upon purchasing my very first Modano jersey (which I still have, naturally) the cashier informs us that practice is open to the public and players sign autographs afterward. Big. Mistake. So…Daddy drove me back the next weekend! I’ve been pretty nervous in my lifetime, several times since then, but NOTHING compares to me at 14 years-old walking up to Mike Modano. My dad said I was still shaking an hour later. All I remember is how tall Mike was, how tan he was and how oh so dreamy I thought he was (and all I can think now is, really Nikki?). And anyone remember that BMW 8 series he had with the license plate that said NINE? Enough to make a teenage heart melt. (I HAVE to find the picture with him…hilarious!) Every school book cover and binder I had for the following three years had his goofy face all over it.

Petr and me, 1996, SUCH BABIES. Please note the pics of us get better...seriously, what am I wearing here?!3. 1995: Petr Buzek. Unless you know me, are a longtime Stars fan or are some freakish NHL historian, you’re thinking…um, who? In the third round of the 1995 draft, the Stars took a baby-faced Czech defenseman named Petr Buzek. Originally ranked as the top defensive prospect, a definite first round selection, Petr was in a horrific car accident two months prior to draft day. He broke a multitude of bones (wrist, leg among the many) and suffered his first major concussion. Doctors predicted he would never walk again, therefore his stock value plummeted, but there he was on draft day…flashing typical goofball Petr expressions at the camera, in a wheelchair. I remember thinking, what a great story, wouldn’t it be JUST GREAT if the Stars drafted him…

Someone obviously heard me. (I’m pretty sure I personally thanked Bob Gainey at some point in the following years). Sometime in 1996, Emily and I were goofing off at the StarCenter, I don’t even remember WHY we were there, we just were. I’d read in the paper they’d brought Petr into Dallas for rehab, but I didn’t think I’d see him for awhile. However, while we were there he skated out on the ice. I wish I was being melodramatic when I say my world came to a screeching halt. Beginning that day and every day since, he’s been the hockey love of my life. I was known in several U.S. and Canadian cities and quite possibly parts of the Czech Republic as his biggest fan. No joke. Anyway, he bounced around the NHL over the years (keep reading these posts…so much more to this story!), eventually the concussions got the better of him and he returned to the Czech Republic to play, but is now retired. It kills me to think I’ll never see him again.

4. 1996-1998: Working for the Stars. I worked in customer service (selling tickets and merchandise over the phone) during games and on the weekends for a couple of years during high school. It was great, our bosses were awful human beings and one co-worker was a psycho stalker bitch (for this retard named Mike Kennedy, good lord), but we had fun. Plus, we got to go to a few games for free and watch practice on the clock, which was nice! I also met my friend Barbara during this time, who has been a wonderful figure in my life ever since. We’ve made quite a few hockey memories.

DHS seniors, 1998...theyll kill me for this.5. 1997: Starting the high school hockey team in Denton. Texas got its first high school hockey league my junior year, which consisted of four uppity schools out of Dallas. The next season it expanded four times that size and we were a part of it. Denton had a strong roller hockey presence for quite a few years (good ol’ Spinning Wheels) and a lot of the guys either had started to play ice or were interested. And OF COURSE I knew most of them. So we combined forces with our crosstown rival, Ryan High School, and got a team together. No, I didn’t play…I can skate, but have never gotten that whole “stopping” thing down. As a team, we weren’t very good, but I know the guys had fun and I can still smell the post-game hugs from Kyle. I wrote the game stories for the Denton Record Chronicle to make sure they got coverage and although it wasn’t a UIL sanctioned activity, made sure we had a team page in the sports section of the yearbook. Cause I rule.

6. 1997: Stars training camp in Kalamazoo. Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo. And I’ve been there a LOT, probably more than anyone who has never actually lived there. For several years, the Stars minor league affiliation was with the Michigan K-Wings (now the Kalamazoo Wings), a relationship that carried over from the North Stars days. After hosting training camp in Dallas for the first four years, they decided to take it off campus to Kalamazoo in 1997. Yep, that’s the first and last year they did so…and it pretty much changed my life.

Petr and me, Stars training camp 1997Because of Buzek, I got exceptionally involved in keeping up with the K-Wings and all of our up and coming players (players closer to my age? I was all over it!) About this same time, I met a total hockey fanatic (I’ve still yet to meet anyone quite like her!) named Kim. Kim and a couple of her friends had plans to go up to Kalamazoo to attend camp and meet up with some of the local fans with whom they’d been corresponding. She asked if I wanted to go. Uh, was I breathing? Sign me up. The great part about that trip? Kim had gotten to know Petr over the past year, therefore, she did a 17 year-old giddy heart some good and officially introduced me. I was probably mentally picking out fancy white dresses and shiny diamond rings and planning family vacas to the Czech Republic as I drifted off to sleep that night. I will forever be grateful to her for the memory and the picture that came with it…all these years later it is still my absolute favorite.

It was a kick ass time. Training camp has always been my favorite time of the season, still is. I met some amazing people beginning in Kalamazoo with that trip and throughout the dozen or so trips I took afterward. Heck, I almost went to school at Western Michigan. I had a second family there, it was amazing. They’ve got a fabulous booster club that takes care of all the players and as a smitten little girl, it was all sorts of fantastic to have someone in the inside to dish the dirt and keep me updated. (Thank you, JoAnn!)

Petr and me, 1998 K-Wings Booster Club holiday partyThe K-Wings organization and booster club have all sorts of great player involved events and I had the chance to go to most of them. Two (or three?) green ice games, charity spaghetti dinners and the booster club holiday party. So much fun…and yes, oh my god, I was SUCH a stalker. I would love to go back soon, though so  much has changed…but everyone there still means the world to me. My favorite K-zoo gal will always be Miss Marci. How we met is best left for discussion over margaritas, because there is no other proper way of celebrating the amazing life force that she is. I can only hope to be like her when I grow up!

7. 1998: Robin and Leslie. You’re thinking, wait, what, who? Robin and Leslie…that’s who. They’re sisters, one my age and one a year older. We met not too long after that last pic of Petr and I was taken. While in Kalamazoo, I was perusing a Stars message board online and came across this poor, misinformed girl (LESLIE) who thought Richard Jackman (a Stars prospect at the time) was hot. Well, far be it from me not to throw in my OH SO KNOWLEDGEABLE two cents and help this unfortunate individual over to the light side. (Please note that Jackman could be a separate post entirely…but let’s not go there). I met them in person at Stars practice the next week, they freaked out Brad Lukowich knew my name and well, they’ve been two of the greatest, most wonderful friends I’ve had since. We stalked hockey players all over the state of Texas, all the way to Canada, in Michigan of course…Leslie and I even lived together at one point and traveled to London. These two ladies are a MAJOR part of the last 10 years of my life…all because of the Stars/K-Wings. I have no doubt they will always be important to me, no way I could do their friendship justice with these few words, and I have the Hockey Gods to thank for that. You’ll see both their names pop up from here on out…so now you know.

All growed up.8. 1999: Portland. My senior year, the Dallas Morning News hosted a contest for high school journalists in which you went and covered a Dallas Mavericks game. You got full press pass access, including the locker room after the game, it was entirely too much fun. I happen to get the game the day Jim Cleamons was fired and Don Nelson took over. No pressure whatsoever, right? I won, one of my proudest high school accomplishments. The story was published in the Dallas Morning News and I won two Southwest Airline tickets to anywhere I wanted to go. Did I use both tickets to go to hockey games? Yes, yes I did. One to Michigan to see the K-Wings and one to Portland…to see Brenden Morrow. I ahd become friends with this cooky girl in Portland, Mel, a K-Wing’s ex-girlfriend. On a whim a month or so before the last plane ticket expired, she invited me to come visit. I thought what the heck, at the time I hadn’t been to a junior game and thought I might as well go somewhere to see a Stars prospect.

My my how time flies. Seeing Morrow go from the Juniors, to a short stint in Kalamazoo, to the Stars…to being named CAPTAIN has been a bizarre experience. But Brenden is a genuinely nice guy, a hell of a team player…he deserves the best. Don’t get me started on his choice of wives, however. Ahem.

9. 1999: Houston. Where the real fun begins. I am not going into detail about this trip here, as it deserves its own posting…TRUST ME. I either have to find the pictures or bribe Robin into sending me the ones I KNOW SHE STILL HAS! This trip was in honor of my 19th birthday. What happens when you turn 19? Not a damn thing. Therefore, why not go to Houston to see Petr Buzek and the K-Wings play back-to-back games against the Houston Aeros. And while you’re at it, cause you’re young and stupid, just stay at the same hotel as the team. Because so many good things can come of THAT.

Leslie, Lydia, me and Robin, Houston 1999Seriously though, nothing like drinking wine coolers and watching Night at the Roxbury with future Stanley Cup champions. TO BE YOUNG AND RIDICULOUS AGAIN. We were good girls, still are (relatively speaking!) and bless our hearts, we were a bunch of dorks. The players loved the fact Dallas people had drove down to see them play. Poor Kelly Fairchild, to this day he has no idea where I actually lived. The sad part about this trip? Petr had three major concussions (that I can remember) whilst in the North American pros, I was there for two, one of them happened on this trip during the first game…it was awful. Side note about this trip, it was Robin, Leslie, me and our friend Lydia, who passed away within the last year. We will always miss you, Lyds. And as I said when it happened…I bet the hockey in heaven is fabulous. Enjoy.

1999 Stanley Cup Champions10. 1999: Dallas Stars, Stanley Cup Champions. Yes it was a goal, I hope we have all come to terms with that by now. I remember this night as if it was yesterday. Felt like the longest game ever. And when that goal (that was a goal, dammit) went in…it was like someone had knocked the air out of the universe. I was with Barbara at our friend Janelle’s house, pretty sure we were half asleep and completely silent, we just sat there and stared. I said “so, did we just win the Stanley Cup?” At which point we all just stood and screamed. It was AWESOME. The phone calls immediately afterward to everyone I could think of, driving to Robin and Leslie’s in Duncanville to stay up all night to get tickets to the parade and celebration as soon as they were available, the parade itself. It was a blur of fabulousness. To quote my previous post:

I still remember what this feels like. When your team wins. You don’t sleep. You don’t eat, food is for mere mortals! You love life. You feel like you played in the game yourself, hell, you were on the starting line-up playing with a broke skull! You fought the good fight. You cried the good cry. You hope the high NEVER ends.

11. 1999: Oh, Canada. At one time, I had this uncanny ability to make friends with players’ ex-girlfriends or really good female friends. I still don’t know how it all happened, but hey, they liked me. Probably because my pudgy, nerdy, star-struck, infatuated younger self was the least of threats. Or it was the Southern charm. Who knows. But one such friend, Ruth Ann, was in Canada. Nova Scotia to be exact. She was a longtime friend of Jon Sim. Great gal, wish we could get back in touch with her. MONTHS (please remember that part, MONTHS) before the Stars even made the playoffs, Leslie and I decided to travel to Canada to visit her. Getting to Halifax required a layover in Toronto coming to and from. We had some total good times…pretty much still my favorite trip that wasn’t intended to directly relate to anything hockey. Learning to drink in Halifax, continuing to learn how to drink even more in New Glasgow (those Canadians, man…), camping on Cape Breton Island and freaking Jon Sim completely the f*ck out…PRICELESS.

Fate has a major sense of humor. It’s taken me almost 10 years, but I can finally laugh about this trip. The two weeks we were in Nova Scotia happened to land right when Sim got his day with the Cup. During the planning process, we did everything we could to figure out how to avoid bumping into him, despite knowing we’d be running in his social circle. Naturally, Plan Avoid Jon Sim didn’t pan out too well. However, he’s not the brightest crayola in the box and forgot at some point in time we were there…or even that we exist! Leslie waited till Jon visited the loo and chased the Cup down and kissed it right where Joe Nieuwendyk’s name is engraved with the ’87 Flames, I became pals with Jon’s brother (which led to an infamous night on the SMU campus a year later…let’s just say I WALKED into a stop sign) and turns out one of Jon’s childhood friends is the hottest guy I’ve met to this day. Chris Hale of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia…I still love you.

It’s not every year two crazy fans happen upon a player’s day with the Cup in his hometown, drunk and delusional, on a river in the middle of nowhere Canada. Eh?

Me and Leslie showing our love to Lord Staleys Cup, Hockey Hall of FameOn the way back to the United States of America, besides a stay in Toronto at The Scariest Hostel Ever, we popped into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Amazing. I can’t wait to go back one day. They have this ginormous wall-size picture of the current Stanley Cup champions leading into the trophy room. Being the dedicated fans we were, I asked a friendly looking family to take our photo with it, seeing as it was the Stars. Afterward, I thanked them and asked where they were from. They said Buffalo. I said, oh, um, I’m sorry…IT WAS TOTALLY A GOAL.

Side note about the Hall of Fame, there are a pair of Jackman’s hockey pants (or his helmet, I forget) in there from when he played with the Soo Greyhounds. He’d never seen the display before and asked me at one point to bring a picture. The day I brought it up to the StarCenter (twas during training camp) is the day I first saw the 2nd hockey love of my life. Truth be told, he could’ve been an accountant and I still would’ve been smitten at first sight. I refuse to admit his name right here though. Every one who knows me, knows who it is. The French Canadian Austrian who also speaks Spanish. And wears awful hats.

12. 2000: Thrasher Day. The Atlanta Thrashers joined the NHL prior to the 99-00 season and with it, came the horrid expansion draft. I say horrid, because it’s when I lost Petr. The writing was pretty much on the wall, since a member of the Stars staff who was a big fan of Petr’s (join the club, ass hole!) jumped ship for the Thrashers. So all bets were on Petr as the pick, but that didn’t stop me from bawling in a bathroom at the Galleria when the news came down. My 19 year-old heart was crushed.

Petr and me (you should know this by now), Thrasher Day 2000However, his transition to a new team wasn’t only a chance for him to get playing time in the N, but also new adventures for Nikki. Like I said, this is all about me. Needless to say, I declared a national holiday the day the Thrashers came to Dallas. There were weeks of preparation, classes skipped, a group organized, a team hotel discovered, signs made, words thought of to say…and a panic attack once I couldn’t find my favorite lip gloss on Thrasher Day Eve (ask my roommate, it was a life threatening situation…back up was called). Robin, Lydia and I trucked it down to the front lawn of Reunion Arena at some ungodly hour of the morning to wait for the team to walk across to practice from their hotel. I’d like to think Petr was actually surprised to see me standing there waiting for him….but no, not so much. He signed my Thrashers jersey (the first jersey I ever owned NOT Stars related), we chatted and we took a picture. Cause that’s what we do.

Afterward, I floated on a cloud down to Valley Ranch with the girls in tow to watch Stars practice, wearing my Thrashers jersey. The best part? Lukowich asked me after practice, “so did you get to see Boozer?” Yes, yes I did. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Or psychology class.

Not too long after that, thanks to an injury on the World Team, Petr was named to the 2000 NHL All-Star Team. Seeing as he never got to stick around long enough to win a Cup (he was a member of the Czech team that won the international championship later that year, however), the All-Star game was the moment all the pain and sweat of rehab, the dedication and diligence to get to the NHL and all the faith and work the Stars put into him paid off. I unfortunately wasn’t there, but my friend Amanda was, and took pics for me. Friends don’t let friends stalk hockey players alone.

13. 2000: Kalamazoo. Most people spend spring break in somewhere, you know, warm. Robin and I, we’re not most people. We spent spring break of our sophomore year of college in three feet of snow, going to K-Wings games, skating on green ice, watching Montel Williams laying on Marci’s couch, trying to figure out if Bad Touch was a real song, mesmerized by Marty Turco doing back bends in a suit on top of a table and being awkward, totally out of our comfort zone party guests. Wet willies, lap dances and orange leisure suits included. Robin is lucky, I can’t find the pictures. HOW UNFORTUNATE. Between being with her and living some of my most favorite Kalamazoo memories…this was, without a doubt, my best trip to the Zoo. We still reminisce about certain moments of this week AT LEAST a dozen times a year…and laugh until we cry. I miss those days.

Atlanta, 200014. 2000: Hotlanta. Seeing Petr and the Thrashers play in Dallas wasn’t enough. If you’re going to do it, be someone’s number one fan, you best do it right. Therefore, I went to Atlanta. Again, I managed to make friends with someone who was dating someone. This gal, Suzie, fooled around with Petr’s bitch Kato Cailin roommate who moved to Atlanta with him from Kalamazoo. So naturally, she somehow became my friend and I went to visit.

The games and practice were fun, Phillips Arena was brand new and fabulous at the time. But the best memory came outside of hockey…it came via football. Petr’s roommate, mentioned above, was actually back home while Robin and I were in Kalamazoo (the honeymoon, she was over). He knew who I was and decided to have a little sit down with me at a party. MOST UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATION OF MY LIFE OH MY GOD. When I saw him motioning for me to come over, I briefly considered throwing myself out the window, but thought better of it since we were only on the second story. Anyhow, after he thoroughly embarrassed me (it was pretty easy to do those days) and learned I was headed to Atlanta, he handed over a couple of club VIP cards. Thankfully he did so, cause at the time, I was still a year away from being drinikingly legal. One of the cards got Suz and me into VIP at this club called Tongue N Groove (seriously) without being carded. At one point, all 5-foot, 3-inches of my white ass self was fighting to get to the bar admist at least six members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I finally settled on an empty spot…right next to Warren Sapp. In addition, there was a Versace fashion show going on in the club (can’t make this up, folks). Suz and I were dancing with one of the body guards, who come to find out played football in Canada and was The Rock’s college roommate. Go figure.

15. 2003: Calgary. To this date, this is my last great hockey memory. And unfortunately, it’s a sad one. At some point, Petr was traded from the Thrashers to the Calgary Flames. I didn’t see him for awhile because of the way the schedule was rearranged, however, in 2003 I saw him twice. First in Dallas when the Flames came to town. I drug Leslie downtown to the hotel where the Flames were staying (believe it or not, a sports writer in Calgary divulged that information). And again, was Petr surprised to see me waiting for him? No, not so much. We chatted, he had had his first child by this time (I’ll accept the fact he has a child, two now, but I will never accept HER existence, dammit) and of course took a picture. When all was said and done, one of the first things I said to Leslie walking to the car was “get ready, we’re going to Calgary.”

Petr and me, Dallas 2003In a previous memory (1999: Houston) I mentioned that Petr had at least three major concussions whilst in North America and I was there for two. One was that first night in Houston and the other was the night the Flames played in Dallas. It happened during what was to become the final shift of the last game of his NHL career. I HATE that it went down that way, I truly do. But it will forever remain befitting that it was in Dallas…and I was there.

At the time, there was vague hope he would return. Could’ve been just my denial. The Flames coach had no desire to see him back on the team, I’ve never heard the full story. File it away under everything happens for a reason. So by the time Leslie and I made it up to Alberta, he’d rarely been seen at practice, games and/or around the team at all. Chances we would see him were extremely slim to none. But on a random day in March 2000, while Leslie and I sat in the Saddledome stands watching Flames practice for no apparent reason, he appeared out of the players tunnel. Leslie said “um, Nikki…” I said “oh. my. god.” and just stood up and walked right down there. This time he WAS surprised. He actually asked what I was doing there and I said, you know, I don’t even know…I’m just here. We chatted for awhile, there was no picture this time, just a long handshake and me saying “I miss you.” And that was it. The last time I saw him. I think a little part of me knew then that it was over.

A few years ago, one of the big time hockey families in Kalamazoo went to Europe on vaca and wanted to look him up. I got a call from my friend that works for the Wings asking where he lives (hi, this is Nikki, the Petr-pedia, how may I help you?), I gave her the name of what was originally his hometown, and they actually found him! Now imagine that was me…I can taste the international restraining orders.

So anyway, we’ve come to the sorta end. There is so much more to all of these stories. So many things that I’ve left out, just because this was the best of the best. I can only hope I’ve done these stories justice and shown how much fun we’ve had. Eventually the gallivanting across the country (the continent!) stopped, the players got WAY too young and we got way too old. But I wouldn’t change a thing (maybe a tweak here and there). I have the pictures, I have the memories…and I will always have Robin and Leslie, my Kalamazoo family, quite possibly a forehead dent from the stop sign and alas, a scar on my ego from falling on my ass on the green ice.

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