Hello everyone! The strangest thing about time is sometimes we just take it for granted to the point where it is thought that articles get lost. However, from piecing together various accounts and transcribing to watching the game, one minor detail was missed. No, it was not the Sandy aftermath and the relief.
It was my birthday………
I could never thank Bruce Hollingdrake enough and everyone involved with The Hockey Writers. Just about a year ago, I was given the privilege to attend the “Global Hockey Legends” game at the Prudential Center. For me, to attend this as a member of a press was a humbling honor.
A Little After Sandy Story
Hurricane Sandy broke my heart to be quite honest. The THW Live episode from that week was the toughest show I ever had to soldier through. I remember talking with Josh Smith and Tim Rosenthal and the first five minutes felt like an hour. The reality is I could see the destruction around me but feel blessed that my house was standing and yet there was so much damage everywhere. Then I saw the Jersey Shore first hand and that did it. I still tear up every so often thinking about it. All those childhood memories and then to see iconic buildings and rides destroyed or worse, carried into the sea.
Personally I went a mere 36 hours without power. It was nothing compared to some residents even in Rahway where some were out for weeks. There was the volunteering efforts down the coast but a video I saw maybe three weeks after the hurricane hit still haunts me. It is this one below.
Also, there was this Hurricane Sandy documentary and many others quite like it. From where I lived up and down the Garden State Parkway and east, there was so much in the way of damage and destruction. Yes there was inland consequences but what everyone remembers is the impact on the coast. The 100+ mph wind gusts and the battering from the tides along with some heavy rains at times. That morning after featured flyovers and what looked like a scene from “Apocalypse Now” played over and over again. Finding any news was done by either driving very carefully around town or a tiny flashlight battery radio that I happened to find in the attic. Cell phones were dead by then.
The weeks and months after would be a struggle for New Jersey and just about five months later, a plan was hatched by Ken Daneyko and a bunch of former NHL’ers and Russian hockey players to have a charity game in Newark. The folks from Gazprom (the North American marketing arm for the KHL) was also heavily involved including the KHL. Before anyone knew it, in the span of a little less than two weeks, the effort results in the Global Hockey Legends game.
For any member of the press, it was a different feeling. I was lucky to sit with so many writers I looked up to along with contemporaries as well. It seemed everyone had a story from Sandy. Basically instead of doing the usual quotes and such, this is just a day in running time so to speak from just before the game until a little after I left the arena. Right up until the puck drop, it really did feel like story time around a campfire.
The funny thing is we were handed media sheets as usual without a beat missed. Granted, we were not in the usual press row but actually at the tail end of the fire lounge. So many pictures were taken but the best ones I saw were from NJ.com. Also I did a lot of work with Steve Stirling that afternoon and his article can be found here.
Honestly, the score did not matter as the Russians withstood a four goal third period onslaught by the former NHL players. Early on, it was clear that the Russian players came to play and were in great shape. Part of me thought they let up some in the second half of the game but again, the game was a leisurely affair. What did matter was the $50,000 raised to help victims of Sandy. Considering, how quickly the event was put together by Ken Daneyko, it spoke volumes on how fast people responded and hopped on board. There were the usual jabs and quips from players walking by (mostly about Daneyko’s extensive phone skills). Let’s just say the former NHL players were gassed and Daneyko was clearly quite red faced. In the same token, you could see how relieved he was too.
The locker room had players ranging from Brian Leetch to Brendan Shannahan to Grant Marshall. It even felt a bit like a the 1995 Devils reunion with Randy McKay, Bobby Carpenter, and Bill Guerin on the team. It was priceless to be able to sit with all the 1995 teammates as a fan first but as a media member, there was additional unique insight. I turned the recorders off at that point but this Dano quote summed things up nicely.
I’ve never been on the phone more in two weeks than I have (been),” a red-faced Daneyko said after the game. “I got turned down because of other commitments, maybe 10 percent (of the time), other than that it was 80-90 percent of the team I wanted to put together … everybody was in, it was amazing. I thought it was going to take a lot more calls, but then I hounded them.
All the auctions, ticket sales, and fan enthusiasm was incredible for a quickly organized event but you could see there were victims of Sandy in the crowd. When the amount donated was announced, there were a few happy tears shed in the Prudential Center.
There were so many New Jersey roots to this event and for the personal side, the best part was yet to come. Like I had said before, it was my birthday and apparently the North Americans and Russians got wind of it. All I can say is there was some cake and a flask to drink out of from Alexei Yashin and the chance to sit down and talk with a ton of Russian players as they smoked a lot of cigarettes.
A few last words….
At that point, it was best just to observe and enjoy. Keep in mind the game ended well before 4:00 and at almost 6:00, I was just exiting the arena. After that, I was able to enjoy wonderful birthday dinner with Rachel (pictured above) and her mom. I had a ton of stories I could share but the problem was always how to share it in print.
Thanks to Rachel, I figured it was time to write this story. As I approach another birthday and the appreciation that goes with being able to enjoy what I do, I can say one thing. It is a privilege to be able to help people along with informing them. For one day, I was media and a giddy 12 year old fan all at the same time.