I've been trying to write this post for 2 days.
So far, all I've done is think about it. And the words aren't really flowing, but I'll do my best, before the emotions all trickle away.
Sunday was the Hockey Hall of Fame Legends game. Seriously, if you're a hockey fan, and you live within reasonable distance of Toronto, you should go to this game. It's THAT fun. The game itself feels like watching pond hockey- there are no real rules, no offsides, no hitting, just back and forth and a lot of smiling and laughing going on between players. For warmups, all the players skate around the whole rink, so everyone can see them. They mosey about in groups of 2 or 3, taking a shot here, pausing to have a word there- it's delightful to watch. And that's just the warmup. Every player gets a little bio and introduction before the start of the game, so you can know who's who and what they have accomplished. The names change each year, some guys are hall of famers, and some aren't, but they are all there because they want to be.
Then they get down to the business of the day, which is to present each of the new inductees with their official HHOF jacket and a snazzy watch. There's a video montage of the player, along with some statistics and whatnot. It's a nice tribute. Then they play a game. And oh, what a game.
Half of the players don't even wear their helmets. (Makes for good photo ops)
The referee has a microphone, and wanders about interviewing players in-between plays.
Music plays the whole time.
After scoring, the player who scored tosses a t-shirt into the crowd.
The ref interacts with the crowd constantly, commenting on jerseys and activities in the stands.
Every person on the ice (this year we had 3 women playing too!) is smiling and having a blast.
So that's the basic layout of the game.
This year there were some notable participants.
To start, one of this year's inductees was Sergei Fedorov, who happens to be my sister 'Nee's favorite player. She was unable to make it to the game (and she did think about going, but couldn't swing it with work) since she's currently stationed in Mongolia, so it was up to me to represent for Sergei. Also, having been to the game for Pavel Bure Day back in 2012, I knew that it was bound to be a good time.
So, Sergei is playing and that's cool.
Additionally, another inductee was Angela Ruggerio. I love her so much. I've got her autobiography and it is an excellent read. She's a very talented player (was part of the first 4 USA Olympic teams, played college hockey, etc) and seems quite intelligent and well-spoken. I think she'd be on my list of people to invite to a dinner party. :) SO getting to see her inducted, and play a game was really fun. She totally held her own with the boys- getting an assist and a goal. :)
Double cool when you add in Angela.
But what really took the cake was Pavel.
Yes, Pavel was playing again. Not only playing, but captain of the "World" team. I can't say how excited I was to see him again. I don't think words would do it.
Let's just put it this way. We entered the arena, and they were actually letting people down to watch warmups. (they did not allow this last time for some reason). I walked down to about 8 rows up and then just stopped. I found Pavel immediately, didn't need to see his name or anything. I think I'd know his skating stride in my sleep. It's IN me.
I got to about 8 rows.. then I stopped. I had to stop because my knees were shaking. Yep, it was like that.
Suddenly, I was 14 and it was the Red Wings/Canucks game I got tickets to for my birthday and I was standing 30 feet away from Pavel. Bure.
Only this time I had a camera. And I used it to full effect. It is not a fancy camera, and I am a very mediocre photographer, but I got some decent shots of Pavel. And I will treasure them, because not only do they remind me of the fun that happened this day, but they remind me of my hockey heart. It's still there. Just as Pavel still has a good bit of the skill that made him so legendary, I still have the feelings that he once evoked in me. (He still evokes them.)
The whole game was amazing. Sergei had 2 goals. Pavel had a goal and an assist (or 2?) He played beautifully.
Truly, one of my favorite moments of the game- and I wish so much that I had gotten this on camera- I did take random videos throughout- was after Angela scored her goal (assisted by Pavel, of course), he gave her the cutest hug with a huge smile on his face. It was adorable and just the perfect melding of 2 of my great hockey loves.
My hockey heart was very, very full that day.