hile it certainly has its challenges, this job comes with many perks. One of the coolest? Getting the chance to meet and converse with some of the best this province has ever produced in the world of sports, and make no mistake, I’ve shamelessly ‘fan girled’ over many.
Paralympic swimming champion Katarina Roxon was a highlight, a close tie with the time I chatted with both Carl English and Ryane Clowe on the same day. Since we’re name dropping – I also chatted with Mark Critch that very same day – and while he’s not a sports star, he sure made it one cool afternoon at the office none the less. But, while I’m proud as punch of these homegrown heroes and pleased as a peacock to have grabbed a snap as I sang their praises inside the pages of The Newfoundland Herald, I am not and have never been a sports fan.
Stole our Hearts
All that has changed since last fall, however when my partner introduced me to the world of ECHL hockey and the Newfoundland Growlers. At first, going to every single home game seemed like a cool way to pass a long, dreary Newfoundland winter, but it soon became clear that attending six (sometimes seven) home games over a ten day period is way, way more than an opportunity for a few stadium fries and a cold one.
As any season ticket holder will tell you, it’s about the hockey, and your eyes better be on that prized puck if you are going to make it through as a new fan of the game. Before long, I began to recognize the players without having to see their number. I knew that James Melindy was the big lad who seemed to levitate more than skate.
I knew Todd Skirving by the hungry way he went for each play and Orrin Centazzo, with his flowing blonde hockey-hair curls, became the “wee one with the big heart,” who played way bigger than he was.
My daughter, 13, and I (52) both fell hard for the player who stole our hearts by playing rock, paper, scissors with the kids through the plexiglass partition.
Number 29 made my heart skip and my blood pump every time he jumped over the boards and landed on his skates. I was officially a fan of hockey.
Grit & Guts
Since that time I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know number 29’s mom and step dad, and thrill that I can call Noel Hoefenmayer’s mom, Deb, a friend.
I’ve chatted with Melindy’s mom on the concourse and with Tyler Boland’s dad, and I’ve shared in the pride they have in their lads and their accomplishments. While none of these players actually belong to me, it’s interesting how quickly feeling invested took hold for someone who couldn’t even manage to master the flex arm hang in school.
Maybe that’s part of it: the sense that these young men are masters at something so few ever get the chance to even try. The grit and the guts it takes to lace up a pair of skates and just go for it is something, if nothing else, worthy of admiration.
And, for a new fan girl like me, proud to cheer on “her Growler b’ys” it doesn’t hurt watching for curly blonde flowing hockey haired number 29 to swing his legs over the boards at game time, either. Just sayin’.
Pam Pardy, The Herald’s Managing Editor, can be reached by emailing [email protected]