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Paying tribute to 100 years of greatness

by Archives January 27, 2009

Last Thursday morning I woke up thinking the day would start off like all other days: breakfast, shower, and get dressed. This past Thursday was unlike any other – I was going to work at the NHL All-Star Game.
I’ve worked many jobs in my almost 23 years. I’ve been to many hockey games, including six this season alone, but I’ve never had an experience like this.
After receiving my volunteer gear the previous Monday (including an All-Star jacket, a polo T-shirt, and a snazzy reversible toque) I hopped on the bus shortly after 10 a.m. to get there earlier just to make a good impression.
When arriving inside the doors of the NHL Lay’s Jamboree along with 50 more volunteers, we were all assigned our posts for the day. Mine was the “Hardest Shot.” I had many people come by, including a few out-of-towners. No NHLers stopped by my station, but I did catch Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey walking by.
Throughout the course of the weekend I managed to meet a bunch of other local and foreign hockey fans, including a family from Los Angeles, where the Kings continue to drop in the standings.
On Saturday evening, after spending the day with a few friends, I experienced the red carpet. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t granted full immunity with a pass inside, so I decided to brave the cold with my scrapbook in hand, getting pushed along the guardrail and squishing two younger folks in front of me. At one point, I could’ve sworn I felt my wallet budge in my pocket, but luckily for me, no money or important cards were taken.
The subzero temperature of minus 37 degrees Celsius with wind-chill made it hard for me to flip through the pages as the players exited the bus to sign a few autographs en route to the Bell Centre. Some of the players were very kind and stopped for more people than others, whereas some signed a few and just jetted as fast as they could. In all I got 12 autographs from them, including young phenoms Alexander Ovechkin of Washington and Jonathan Toews of Chicago. Of the four Montreal Canadiens participating in the event, Mike Komisarek gave his time to sign.
That evening I watched the Skills competition, which wasn’t the most thrilling of events in recent years, but it was nice to see records broken like Boston’s Zdeno Chara breaking the record for hardest shot, previously held by Al Iafrate in 1993, when Montreal last hosted the event. Equally intriguing was the lengthy standing ovation that Montreal native Vincent Lecavalier received from his home crowd.
Ovechkin’s theatrics with sunglasses and a straw hat with a Canada flag won him the popular vote in the Fan Breakaway Challenge, when the participants had to make the most creative plays in 60 seconds on a one-on-one with the goalie.
In the Youngstars game between the rookies and the sophomores, with goaltender Carey Price in between the pipes, the rookies gave their senior counterparts a run for their money, defeating them 9-5.
Sunday was by far the most exciting of the days and nights to cap off the weekend. My shift ended shortly after noon and then the fun began.
While walking to check out the Windsor Station section of the Jamboree, I was approached by a scalper who asked if I were interested in tickets. Two hundred dollars later and I was actually going to the game.
The night was incredible, even from where I was sitting way up high. I couldn’t care less, I had Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard’s face behind me, and I was in great company; 21,273 other unbelievably crazed hockey fans in the greatest city on earth for hockey.
The night had a fairytale ending, the Eastern Conference taking it, despite the boos on all Boston players, even with goaltender Tim Thomas getting the victory, Komisarek’s overtime penalty and then none other than forward Alexei Kovalev getting two breakaway goals and one assist in regulation, then adding the shootout winner and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
With his effort, it was only fitting he was the one to go home with the new Honda as “Most Valuable Player.”
As a fan and a first-generation Montrealer, this was by far one of the greatest weekends in my entire life. I couldn’t ask for more.
I went home with souvenirs, pictures and memories that will last a lifetime.

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