Today was our final game of hockey and the last day of the camp. We had a really good team and easily could have been 3 and 0, but we lost 2 tight games by 1 goal each. Like coach Cap said, "That's hockey." Our record was 1-2 which meant we were in the consolation game.
It's funny how you get used to the perks of the camp after only 3 games. When I got to the rink, I went directly to the medical room to get Ken to tape up my finger. Then I went and picked up my clean laundry, stopped by the coolers to get some ice cold Gatorade and bottled water, then headed to the dressing room where I found my gear hung up and waiting for me. It's going to suck to have to carry my hockey bag to the rink when I get back home!
This was the first game that we wore the red Chicago jerseys. Every player gets a home and away jersey and socks. It was nice to see the red jersey hanging up waiting for me. Bobby Hull said, "It's the best looking jersey in hockey." It's hard to disagree.
Onto the hockey. It's amazing how we came together as a team after only 3 games. We were playing in the consolation game and really wanted to end the tournament with a win. Coach Cap gave us a good pep talk in the dressing room to get us fired up. We were pumped to hit the ice.
|Me with Coach Cap Raedar|
Wayne played for the other team in this game. It was pretty cool to play against him this time. Let's be honest, anytime you get to skate with The Great One, it's pretty cool. Having him on our team yesterday was awesome, but it was still cool to play against him. There was one time he had the puck and went behind our net. He was setup in his office and no one on our team would go near him. He was there stick-handling for a good 5 seconds. The boy on the bench were laughing pretty hard.
Another time I was in the neutral zone and in my peripheral vision, all I saw was the blade of a stick with the puck. Purely out of instinct, I lifted the stick up and as I turned, I saw that it was Gretzky. When you are here, you get really excited seeing him on the ice, but once the game starts, the competitor in you kicks in and you get caught up in the game. The moment that I checked his stick though, it hit me again that I was playing hockey with Wayne Gretzky.
I finished the tournament with 1 goal and 3 assists, good enough for a point per game. I told Dad that if I could put up a point per game in the NHL, I'd be making around 4.5 million a year. I wonder if there were any scouts at the camp...
|Joey Moss handing the Gretzky Cup to the winning team|
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The evening event was the closing banquet and awards dinner. The campers were in full autograph mode while enjoying some wine. The meal was lovely and Jim Jerome did a great job as master of ceremonies. Jim and Wayne go way back to his days in Edmonton. He has an extremely quick wit and had the room in stitches. They showed a recap video of the whole week which was a really nice touch.
As a center piece on all the tables, they had framed pictures that were taken at the camp throughout the week. There was one of me with Cujo. We were allowed to keep them, so I tracked Cujo down and asked him to sign it. He stopped me on a breakaway earlier in the tournament so I asked him to sign it and say something like "Better luck next time."
Here is the picture:
Here is what he wrote:
Wayne got up and gave a nice speech, thanking everyone for supporting his foundation. This is a charity event and the money raised goes to the Wayne Gretzky Foundation. The foundation supports youth hockey initiatives in the US and Canada. He made a point to thank all his staff members and the sponsors of the event. It was very sincere and you could tell that he really appreciates the people who worked on the event. He also thanked all the pros who came out and told some funny stories about them.
After that he introduced Paul Hipp who came out with a guitar and sang some songs. Paul is an actor/musician friend of Wayne's. He sang some nice songs and then played a song he wrote the day before, that was all about the Fantasy Camp. It was a big hit. Wayne's entire family was there and his daughter Paulina went on stage and sang some songs with Paul. She has a great voice and they did a killer job of "Picture" (Sheryl Crow/Kid Rock).
She was also kind enough to pose for a picture with me later on.
The music part of the night became less serious as people started encouraging some of the pros to sing. Wayne said Brett Hull loves to sing so he and Paul rocked some old Beatles songs. Alan Thicke, the actor, joined Paul on stage for some oldies. Mike Keenan was on the mic for a little bit as well. All 3 of them sang pretty good.
|The Gretzky Family with Joey Moss|
The show stopper though was Joey Moss. I can't remember if it was Wayne, but someone got Joey up on stage to sing "La Bamba." He comes from a musical family and he rocked it. He brought the house down and earned a standing ovation with the whole room chanting "Joey! Joey!" It was the perfect end to the formal part of the evening.
Later on, there were five of us sitting outside on the balcony. Mike Keenan was there and I asked him a few questions about the 1987 Canada Cup (Mike was the head coach). It seems like Dad and I chatted to Mike everyday for a minimum of 30 minutes. I can't say enough about how nice he was to us. He was more than happy to talk about the Canada Cup and he was telling us stories that had my jaw on the floor. It was every Canadian hockey fan's wet dream to hear this inside information. I was just a little boy in 1987, but I remember that series like it was yesterday and I know the history of it inside and out. I was absolutely blown away by what he was telling us.
Everyone made their way to the casino and bar area. The highlight of the night for me was having a great conversation with Paul Hipp, the guy who entertained us. It started by me asking him what kind of guitar he was playing (I'm a guitar freak. I have 13 and counting) and it ended about an hour and a half later with us talking about everything from music, to movies, to hockey, to politics. It turns out he has a pretty killer guitar collection too (a '58 Strat amongst a bunch of others). He is a captivating guy, and also shared some stories that had my jaw on the floor. It was really cool hanging out with him.
|Me with Wayne's son Trevor. He was recently drafted by the Chicago Cubs.|
|Dad with Wayne's son Ty. He played in the tournament. He was on the winning team. We sat with him on the bus and had a nice chat. I liked him right away because of the hat he was wearing.|
|Dad with DB Sweeney. He is an actor who starred in a movie about a hockey player turned figure skater called "The Cutting Edge"|
|Me with Russ Courntall|
|Dad with Brian Leetch|
The rest of the night was awesome. It went late and everyone had a blast. It was one of those "pinch yourself" kind of nights. We were hanging out with NHL legends, Hollywood actors, and each other. The campers all knew each other by now so we got to enjoy each others company one more time before we had to say goodbye.
I could tell stories for years to come about tonight, but you know what they say, "What happens in Vegas..."
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The highlight of the week was playing hockey and hanging out with the pros, but a close second to that was meeting the other campers. There are a lot of campers that come back every year and I think it is for two reasons: the camp is so much fun, and the friendships you make with people from all over the world. Everyone here has a story. I exchanged a lot of business cards with people who I'm sure I'll keep in touch with for years to come.
I'd like to introduce you to a few of them.
Meet the Basler brothers, Kevin and Scott. Their story tugged on the heart strings of everyone here. They had talked about coming to the camp for a while, and then their father got diagnosed with cancer. His dying wish was for them to take some of his money and attend the camp with their wives. Yesterday, Kevin scored the goal that I assisted on with Gretzky. After our last game, they sat on the bench and had a beer in memory of their dad. I jumped in and joined them for a picture.
Woody and Connolly, like me, are good east coast boys living the dream here this week. They are here from Newfoundland and it was their first time in Vegas. It was nice to be able to hang out with some fellas from my neck of the woods, and use some east coast slang in Sin City.
Johnny Callahan from Chicago stood on his head for our team in nets.
Dad and I met Gary and his buddy Mike in the Calgary airport on our way to camp. It turns out he is married to a cousin of ours and they live in Saskatchewan. Small world I tell ya! We ended up playing on the same team and I set him up for a goal.
This is Red. He is the trainer for the Green Bay Packers.
Bruce Bennett is the "Gretzky" of hockey photography. Don't believe me? Check out his portfolio. He was the professional photographer who has been documenting the entire camp. Not only is he an incredible photographer, he is a very friendly guy who I probably drove crazy everyday asking him for tips on taking pictures and telling me stories behind some of his famous shots. He has shot over 4000 NHL games, Canada Cups, Olympics etc... You name it, and he was there taking pictures. The story about the Crosby 2010 goal is ridiculous. He also introduced me to "frozen hot chocolate" here in Vegas at a place called Seredipity's. For that I will be ever thankful.
This is Jenny and her boyfriend Paul. Jenny works for Wayne and the camp. I met them on the first night and became fast friends with them. They are lovely people who welcomed me with open arms.
Colin Brownlie is an all around awesome and funny guy. He helps out with running the camp. We had a lot of laughs this week.
Mike Barnett used to be Gretzky's agent and the GM of the Phoenix Coyotes. We had a few great chats through out the week, but the best one we had was about jazz. His father was a jazz saxophone player who played with Louis Armstrong and Tommy Dorsey to name a few. I studied jazz saxophone in university so we had a nice talk about music.
Brad Janson has been at every camp since it started. I think it is was fate that we met on the first night. He asked where I was from, and when I told him "Nova Scotia," we made the connection that I know his cousins very well. We became fast friends and he was great to me all week. He did a very classy thing on the last day. There were a few trays of sandwiches left over from lunch at the rink, and while the bus was stopped at a red light on the way back to the hotel, he ran out and gave them to a homeless guy. Everyone on the bus clapped.
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A Note of Thanks...
I've been getting a lot of positive feedback about the blog posts. One on the guys on my team came up to me and said "My wife has been reading your blog back in Edmonton." So here's a shout out to Jeff's wife.
This is the last day of camp which means this is the last blog post about camp... for a while. I am going to post one more in a few weeks after I get back home and settled into reality. This was truly a first class event, but it feels very relaxed and casual. I definitely get the magnitude of how crazy the past 5 days has been, but being here and caught up in it all, I don't think it will really hit me of how lucky I have been to truly live a fantasy until I get home and start to process it all.
I want to take a second and thank everyone for reading and sending some nice comments. I've been getting a lot of texts/emails/facebook messages/tweets from family and friends who are jealous of the experience, but really happy for me. It means a lot.
I've also been getting some emails from people I never met who have been enjoying the blog and living the camp "Vicariously through me." I hope you are enjoying it as much as I have been.