I can remember back to my early childhood days and the anticipation that led up to a going to see a Winnipeg Jets game. It was all I could think about as a young boy as I’d think about who’s autograph I could get after the game and if I’d be able to finally get Dale Hawerchuk’s. When Edmonton came to town it was one of the few times I can remember going to the visitors room first. My Dad patiently waiting with me for the Great One to come out. He signed something that I can’t remember what or where it ended up but I do remember the act of him signing something for me and that’s one of the things people over look with autographs.
An autograph is not just a collectable, it really doesn’t matter what they sign it’s those few precious moments as a young boy or girl that someone you look up to takes to sign something for you. Getting autographs after an NHL game is one of the most precious memories I can remember from all the games I went to as a kid.
Another fond memory I have of Jets games was when Ray Neufeld played with the Jets and after every warm up he would stay out on the ice for a few minutes and toss warm up pucks over the glass to little kids. I would always bug my dad to go down there to try and get one and I remember Ray tossing a puck towards me and it coming right for me when some other kid in is his teens jumped off something above, right over me, caught the puck and running off. I was so confused and my dad was so upset but he couldn’t get Ray’s attention to throw another puck but he took me out to the merchandise stands and bought me a Jets puck and said this one has a logo on it and after the game we can get it signed. I was still upset that it wasn’t a used puck but I got over it by the end of the game when I did get my new puck signed by Ray Neufeld.
I never did get lucky enough to catch a puck from Ray but those few extra minutes he’d take after warm-up is a lasting memory I’ll always have and something I wish more NHLer’s would think about, it’s a great way to build fan loyalty in kids and parents. I also remember being devastated when Neufeld was traded away to Boston. I asked my dad “Who’s going to throw pucks now?” My Dad told me he didn’t know but one of the other players might do it but if they didn’t we had to be thankful for the time that Ray Neufeld had spent doing it.
I remember going to Fort Whyte to meet Bobby Hull and get his autograph and asking my Dad who he was and my Dad told me about how he’s the reason the Jets are in the NHL today and how he was a great player and that we should be so lucky to meet someone who did so much for our city and our team. When the time came to Meet him I had him sign one of those little plastic sticks and it’s to this day one of the few autographs I still have because how do you get rid of something from someone so respected.
I remember going to my first playoff game and my Dad telling me we had to wear the white jersey tonight because everyone was going to be dressed in white. I asked him why and he said it’s to help out the team. I was in awe when walked into the rink and could look down at the white everywhere and instantly felt like I was part of the team.
I remember being there in ’92 and ’93 for playoff games against Vancouver and my Dad had managed to get lower bowl tickets for these games and we sat down in the corner. I was only able to go to one of the home games while my brother got to go to the other. My Dad was always fair with us like that except when you misbehaved. One year when I was a little kid I thought it would be a good idea to spin my cat around because as a kid I’d love it when the bigger kids would grab my hands and spin me so it felt like I was flying. So it only seemed logical that my cat would like the same thing right? Clearly not as I ended up with a scratch above my eye and had to stay home and couldn’t even watch the game I was supposed to be going to with my Dad on TV.
I also remember in the late 80′s when players like Gretzky and Lemieux would play in Winnipeg and at the end of the game when they would come out as one of the three stars I’d ask my Dad why we were cheering for them when they just beat us. He’d explain to me that it was the proper thing to do, that we were being good sports and that they were also such good players you should appreciate being able to watch them play.
I later remember watching the ’87 Canada Cup being super excited that my favorite player Dale Hawerchuk got to play for Canada with Gretzky and Lemieux and I remember my Dad letting me stay up late to watch the final games against the Soviets and being so happy that Hawerchuck was on the ice for that final goal by Lemieux.
Lastly I remember one night after a game being downstairs outside the Jets locker room waiting for Dale Hawerchuck to come out and sign autographs. I had been down there many times after many games and he had never come out before we had to leave. This night would be different though I was determined to get his autograph and my Dad was just as determined. After what seemed like hours but was likely only about 20 minutes and most of the players had left my Dad asked one of the players if he knew when Hawerchuck would be coming out. I can’t recall the details of the conversation between the two of them or even which player it was he talked to. I want to say Thomas Steen but I’m not 100% sure if it was him or not but I de remember what happened next.
That player took me into the locker room with him and up to where Dale Hawerchuck was and introduced me to him and Dale signed my program for me. I was so excited and it was overwhelming as a young boy I was meeting my idol and I got to do it in the dressing room and see where all the players got dressed. I came out shortly afterwards and my Dad was waiting for me and asked what it was like in there. “Awesome,” I said and gave him a big hug.
Thank you Dad for everything you have done for me, thank you for helping me obtain all thse fond memories that I’ll never forget and thank you for helping me accomplish so much in life.
Thank you for teaching me that with patience, determination and little hard work you can accomplish anything the day you helped me get Hawerchucks autograph. Thank you for teaching me that you can’t always get everything you want in life, but to cherish the things you do get like that new autographed Ray Neufeld puck. Thank you for teaching me how to deal with loss like that time Neufeld got traded. Thank you for teaching me to appreciate and respect my elders like that day we met Bobby Hull.
Thank you for teaching me the value of being part of a team like that day we all wore white. Thank you for teaching me about fairness and the value of right over wrong as you did by taking my brother and I to games evenly and not taking us when we misbehaved. Thank you for teaching me how to be a good sport and to always respect your opponents as you did when we watched Gretzky’s Oilers and Lemeiuc’s Penguins. Thank you for teaching me that it’s ok to bend the rules for special occasions like the ’87 Canada Cup.
But most of all thank you Dad for teaching me unconditional love, a love I have for my family, my friends and I’m able to once again have for my hockey team. Call them what you will. My Dad taught me to love them no matter if you truly care for someone or something and the lessons learnt from my Dad is the memory that I hold fondest of them all.
Thank you Dad, I love you.
Happy Father’s Day