Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Moment To Savor

Just one look at that photo, brings it all back.
It might very well be the only picture I've seen of the Portland Pirates locker room after their Calder Cup championship win. The image of Kevin Kaminski tipping the Calder Cup has become an iconic one for that night.
If you stumble across the photo that hasn't been cropped. That's me to the right of Killer, wearing a white shirt and black vest. I bet that vest still smells of champagne and Gatorade.
That celebration was May 30, 1994 - almost 20 years ago.
I still remember much of that night like it was yesterday. There's Byron Dafoe streaking through the hallway. A grinning Olie Kolzig standing on the base of the lockers, dancing and extending his hand to me for a high-five. There was Sergei Gonchar hovering around the keg. There was the river of Gatorade being dumped upon me. There was champagne squirted in my eyes. There was a story to get, actually a couple since I was doing a second day follow-up as well. There was my sip out of the Calder Cup. There was my interview with Brian Curran, of which I could take no notes because my notebook was soaked.  And there was my drive home, smelling of champagne and Gatorade and the thought that if a cop stopped me and wondered why I smelled boozy, he'd never believe my story.
Much of the experience that night is chronicled in my book Sidelined.
"I still don't know who did it, but some player saw the opportunity to get coach and media with the Gatorade bucket all in one shot. We were all soaked, and there was much rejoicing."
It is one of those events that I'm sure the players still talk about fondly and an experience that truly matches nothing else in my professional career.
One of my goals when I entered sports journalism was to cover pro hockey at some level. Being a somewhat regular beat writer for the Portland Pirates was the kind of thing I had hoped for. Afterall, they replaced the Maine Mariners in Portland.
I grew up following the Mariners as a kid. All those Mariner games I attended helped nurture my love of hockey. I took shots at goalie Pete Peeters at the Mariners annual charity carnival. I got Drew Callander to speak to my junior high school English class.  I met Mel Hewitt at the Hannaford in Gorham when I worked there and he lived in town. It was a thrill to meet and interview Dave Brown years later for an award-winning story I did on hockey tough guys. I still remember the Mike Emrick call of the Mariners winning goal the night they won the Calder Cup in their first year.  "Dunlop, Gorence, Hill, Barnes and Bathe ... Let's the shot go ... Score !!!" I can walk around the Cumberland County Civic and tell people I was at the Bud Stefanski game, and they know exactly what I'm talking about. I was also there when Steve Tsujiura flipped an opponent judo style - not just once but twice, while wearing those infamous Cooperalls.
One of my first stories I did for the Sun Journal was on the Maine Mariners. The first game of theirs I covered was a thrill, especially since I got to me legendary coach Herb Brooks that day - following him to his team's bus and interviewing him there.
 That Pirates Calder Cup championship win came in the team's first season also. I remember thinking that there would likely be more celebrations like it. I had been to a couple of Maine Mariner championship parades as a kid. The Pirates appeared to be a strong organization with a commitment to winning and a roster full or promising talent.
But for the Pirates, that Calder Cup win would be the only one - at least so far. They had other chances. The following year, they were one of the best teams in the league and lost in the first round. I still remember that locker room too. A stark difference as I had a very sullen conversation with the Nelson brothers (in photo above) after that loss.
A few years later, the Pirates reached the Calder Cup finals again but lost in the final game in Rochester. In fact, all of my other playoff seasons with the Pirates ended in defeat. It had me looking for the Andrew Brunette's, or Kent Hulst's or Mike Peluso's, the guys that are willing to talk and say something good despite the hurt of a loss.
It has been a few years since I was on the American Hockey League beat on a regular basis. I don't miss the extra travel or added workload - much of which had to come on my own time. But during the hockey playoffs, I do tend to miss all that goes with the playoff hockey atmosphere.
So all those eerily silent locker rooms reminds me of that joyous night in Portland in which celebration was in order. The champagne was flowing. The Gatorade was being dumped. There was a keg in the locker room. There was a reporter with a champagne bottle stuffed down his pants (thankfully, not me) And a good time was had by all. It was an amazing and wonderful night to experience and be part of it in my own way. It wasn't my celebration. I didn't win anything. But it was a joy to see a bunch of great guys that I had gotten to know enjoy the rewards of their success. I remember and cherish that experience like the guys that actually won the title do. It was just one of those special times for that team, and I had the pleasure and responsibility to follow it and write about it.
And it reminds me to enjoy every wonderful moment because you never know when or if they'll happen again.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Born To Shimmer

We're born to shimmer.
That's what I believe. We were all created with something special about us. A truth, a light, a love and a purpose. We're created as a promise to the future  - the coming of something wonderful and amazing.
Yet, sometimes we don't get there.
One of my favorite songs is Shimmer by Shawn Mullins.
"We're born to shimmer
We're born to shine
We're born to radiate
We're born to live
We're born to love
We're born to never hate..."

But sometimes we are taught to hate. We're even too quick to do so.
Just yesterday, when the news broke about the arrest of a suspect in the murder of a 15-year old girl, I learned that people within an hour of the news were already posting hateful words on the suspects' Facebook page.
I certainly don't condone what he's arrested for. I assume the police got the right guy. I hope they did. I hope this kid gets the justice he deserves. I'm disgusted and saddened by what he might have done. But to go so far as to post hatred on his page, I won't do that. I'm better than that. I'm stunned that so many others are so quickly motivated to do so. Isn't stooping to such hateful actions just answering the kid's evil with more?
I know people were saddened to learn the girl wasn't found alive. I'm sure many were emotional and even furious about the waste of such a life and senselessness of the whole thing. We should be angry about the violence and senseless loss of life we see every day.  But is demonstrating our own hate, really the answer?
Wouldn't it have been better to show empathy for the mourning family? Or show appreciation to the efforts of the wardens and police who worked so hard in this case? Or support the searchers that volunteered to help find this girl? Or bond together as a community and rise and grow from such tragedy? There were so many other options, positive steps to take amidst the sadness - rather than resort to more hatred.
One of my favorite books is The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. In that book, Joshua Chamberlain talks about man and equality. He says he believes that every man has a divine spark and that is what makes us human.
I think we all have that divine spark. That is what makes us shimmer. But too often people dim that light inside. We groom the hatred, anger and bitterness inside. Soon that overwhelms the love that is our true center.
I see it everyday. It's in our politics. It's in our work place. It's in the day-to-day happenings of our lives. People are living their anger and bitterness and expressing their hatred. Who knows what circumstances have bred those feelings. It has become easier to show our displeasure and express our anger than it is to show our care and love.
That's not how we were created. That's not the core of who we are as humans. That's not our purpose.
It is too easy to forget that and live in that darkness and not feel the shimmer in us all.
But as we dispatch this anger and hatred and shake demons that haunt us, our hearts become less hard. The shine begins to radiate again.  That's what is in our nature. It's what we were born to do. We can make a difference rather than make a stink about something.
That's what our instinct should be - to shimmer, shine, radiate, love and release the hate.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Song

What song am I?
What is the song that is so much a part of me or so associated with me that the second anyone hears it, I’m the one they think of?
I pondered that question recently.
A friend of mine emailed me about how he had been at lunch and had heard the Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The mere mention of that song reminds us all of a friend and his big goofy grin. It immediately prompts a quick toast to our to-soon-to-be deceased and sorely missed brother,  Rob.
I can imagine Rob getting a huge thrill and laugh over the fact that we think of him every time we hear that song. And now it seems we here it often. It must be Rob’s way of reminding us he’s there.
It really was just a joke to begin with. We were in a bar and a friend of ours was singing there. He broke into that Gordon Lightfoot song. We might have even requested it. As he began playing the opening chords, Rob looked at us and declared himself the lone survivor of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He beamed that big goofy grin, and we all laughed riotously. We can all recall that moment and see that grin as if it was yesterday.
He died a few years later but as the song says, his “legend lives on.” When we were recently in Florida, we conned a karaoke regular to sing the song for us. It isn’t an easy song to sing but he gave it a try and we all toasted our friend.
Now Rob is forever linked to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
So that made me wonder what song would I be forever linked to?
I’ve got a whole catalog of songs that remind me of others. I once joked that I should write a book about what songs remind me of which girls. I figured I’d make a lot of enemies that way. I just heard a song the other day that reminded me of a girl in college, but I realized that song and the story behind it might not make the book. That’s a story that likely will just stay with me.
But I’m not sure what song defines me.
There are songs I like of a rebellious nature that I like to feel as my own.  There’s Motley Crue’s "Wild Side" but I’m really not THAT wild.  I love the Levellers “One Way” or even better “A Life Less Ordinary.” I think that might define me better than most. U2 has some great anthems that I identify with but I’m not sure they’re my songs.  When I think of some of my other favorite artists,  the Beatles, George Harrison, the Smithereens, the BoDeans, REM, Peter Gabriel, and Richard Shindell , they all have songs I truly love dearly but I can’t really make any of them mine.
I do remember a friend saying once that when he heard a Smithereens song, he thought of me – only because I was the only die-hard Smithereens fan he knew. In fact, there are more Smithereens songs and BoDeans songs that remind me of other people than they do myself.
Maybe I should Facebook message Pat from the Smithereens or Kurt from the BoDeans and get them to write me an anthem. I’ve recently had the urge to write songs again myself. Maybe I’ll write my own.
But really a song that kind of serves as a lasting legacy to me isn’t one I create. It is a song that fits me or reminds people of me. In a way, Rob defined his song in an unintended manner. I might inspire it or help prompt someone linking a song to me but I don’t see me creating that link intentionally.
My song would have to be chosen by others, maybe with a little bit of inpiration from me. They would be the music and the words that make them think of me, hopefully in a good way.
So, it makes me curious. What song am I?