Hockey to the Rescue:
or, "How I had to have over 12 hours of airline delays and malfunctions to end up in a Chicago airport and have one of my best hockey memories ever":
I promise this post is about hockey, you'll just have to stay with me through the set-up in order to get to the hockey goodness. I could seriously write a few hundred posts about the events leading up to this hockey news I share here, but will try and whittle it down to the bare details.
So I spent the last five days in D.C. with my girlfriend. We went out to visit with my brother and his wife and my World's Awesomest Newphew. She'd never met any of them, and she and I hadn't really taken any vacations together yet, and it was a really great trip. Saw some sights, played with the nephew, hung with the brother. Good times.
Anyway, we were due to fly yesterday from Dulles Airport in D.C. to Newark, and then catch a connecting flight to Nashville to be back yesterday afternoon around 4pm. The key word in that phrase is "due" because our trip back was anything but the one we were supposed to take. We got to Dulles at 9am, a couple hours before our 11 o'clock to Newark.
I was really excited about flying to Newark, because that airport is reportedly right across the water from Manhattan, and I have never seen New York City. I love big cities and big-city skylines, so I was pumped. We get on the Continental plane and taxi out to the runway...where we promptly sat for 2 hours.
We finally get an announcement that the navigational computers were malfunctioning and we would have to return to the gate. We sit for another hour until they finally tell us it's hopeless and we'll have to deplane. We get off the plane and stand in line with the other passengers for another two hours before finally reaching the counter.
At this point we've already missed our connecting flight from Newark to Nashville by about two hours. She scours the computer (checking all three major airports in D.C., including Reagan and BWI in Baltimore), and finally concludes there's a flight to Minneapolis we needed to be on so that we could connect there to Nashville. We scurry to the opposite end of the airport to a separate terminal (which takes almost an hour in itself since Dulles is so freaking huge--movie note: loved seeing the airport from Die Hard 2 and pretended a few times to see the "spot where John McLane's car got towed").
Unfortunately by the time we get to that gate, we've missed the flight. Keep in mind, since we hurried so fast at the urging of the asian ticket girl, we didn't even have tickets at this point for anything. She'd called ahead to that gate and told the girl to let us on the flight, but we didn't make it. So here we are with no tickets and no flight.
After another hour of frustration, and running back to the original gate because the asian girl is the only one in the world who knows we have a right to be on some plane somewhere...we finally catch an American Airlines flight to O'hare in Chicago, where we sit for two hours for a final flight home to Nashville.
Here's where the hockey comes in. I'm sitting at gate K3 in one of the largest airports in the world. I have no business being in Chicago at this airport, as I should have been in Nashville five or six hours earlier. I'm pissed, tired, and supremely hungry. I'm about ten minutes away from finally boarding the last plane of the journey, and who walks up and gets in line to board, but Barry Trotz, coach of the Nashville Predators.
I said to my girlfriend, "That's Barry Trotz." She says, "That's great. Who's that?"I say, "It's the coach of the Predators, I'm gonna go shake his hand." Without any further thought I walked briskly over to him, and interrupt his conversation with some guy who I quickly realized was Brent Pederson, assistant coach of the Preds. I also happened to have worn my long sleeve grey Preds T-shirt that day. I stick out my hand and say, "I'm so sorry to interrupt, but I'm a huge Preds fan, and I would really kick myself later if I didn't shake your hand and congratulate you for how this team's been doing."
"Oh, Thanks," says a somewhat startled Barry Trot--I have to believe he doesn't get recognized all that often, and even less often when he's in Chicago. "This is Brent Pederson, Assistant coach," Barry says, shaking my hand.
"Yeah, I know," I say, as I shake Brent's hand. "So, I'm really looking forward to this upcoming Admiral's game at the GEC."
"Yeah," replies Barry, "That's where we just were. We just came from the Admiral's game."
This really excited me, and I stammered out, "Awesome, how did we do?" Trotz answers, "We lost in a shootout. But we got a really good team up there." I asked, "Did any of our boys have a good night?"
Trotz: "Well, Shishkanoff had a goal, and Gamache scored one during the shootout, but the other team had two shootout goals, so we lost." At this point people started getting on the plane, and I didn't want to be a bother.
"Well, thanks a lot. I really enjoyed meeting both of you. I'm nuts about the Preds and just want you to know you've got an amazingly loyal core group of fans who can't wait for hockey to come back. Keep up the good work." They said thanks and I left. As I did, I noticed that Horachek, another Preds assistant and former Admiral's head coach, and Mr. David Poile himself were also there.
I sat two seats behind Pederson, three behind Trotz. I noticed Trotzy had recently dyed his hair to get the grey out, and it made him look quite young. Trotz is very short...very short. Pederson and Poile are both quite tall. All four men retrieved golf clubs from the baggage claim after landing in Nashville. I waved a quick goodbye as I passed them on the way out, which Barry returned.
Now, you might think that's a pretty lame story, especially if you're someone reading this who doesn't care about hockey. But for me, it was huge. Here I'd spent over 12 hours in airports and on planes, through delays and interruptions, and I got the shiniest of silver linings in meeting my favorite team's coaches. I'm sure many people have met Barry Trotz, or random Preds players...but I hadn't until yesterday. I'll be telling that story for a long time to anyone who will listen or care. And that's my hockey story. Hope you liked it. I had to get delayed and rerouted a few times, and fly halfway across the country (in a mostly-wrong direction) to do it, but last night I finally met a personal hero, the coach of my beloved Preds, the winningest first-coach of a new franchise in NHL history.
Oh, by the way, finally relaxed and feeling vindicated by fate and Murphy's law, I slept like a baby on the flight back.
PS-there's a great article in the Tennessean today about the Preds, and how some have priorities that don't include playing for another league. Any hockey news these days is a nice surprise. Go here to read it.