The Highlights of MK’s 2008-2009 Season Pt. 4

WORST PLAYOFF MOMENT, Ctd.

Just thinking about Game 7 really made me think about how I needed to emphasize to the readers about this learning experience.

You never know how much emotion goes into the game of hockey until you see a room filled with defeated men. It was very intense. Defeated is the only word in the English vocabulary that can describe that emotion.

Everyone had dark, solemn faces. Some men looked like they were on the verge of tears. Others couldn’t speak a single word, no matter how many tape recorders and cameras were in their face.

It was definitely an emotional roller coaster. The Devils, after all, were leading and winning Game 7. It took only 80 seconds to take that elated feeling and pop that balloon of happiness.

I was so emotionally disturbed with that moment in the locker room, I had to run out of there after 5 minutes because I was afraid that I would end up weeping for them. I don’t cry in public. But as I grow older and further into womanhood, I realize that I’m not strong enough to hold back the tears anymore. They come no matter how sad, hurt, happy, or elated…the tears come.

I didn’t watch the rest of the playoffs. I picked up something here and there on it, but I just couldn’t deal with hockey after seeing the Devils after Game 7. It’s a very haunting image that makes me sick to my stomach with sadness.

Along with that, I didn’t write for a month. I was an emotional wreck.

Seeing Parise with ashen skin, looking dark, sad, and solemn with defeat really was the bottom of the barrel there when it comes to shock value. It’s the last thing in the world you want to see, but there were several of us that played witness to the after effects of the Devils’ demise.

I had to take a break from hockey after that.

When my editor emailed me after Boston was tossed out of the race, we talked about that emotion that goes into the game. It is really hard to watch your team being thrust out of the playoffs. But it was nice knowing that I wasn’t alone and that we do move on.

Moving on for me meant getting an email from the NHL letting me know that it was time to get ready for the off-season: the NHL Awards.

13 Hours In a Room With A Bunch of Famous Guys

Every serious hockey fan’s dream: being stuck in a room with Roberto Luongo, Mike Richards, Mats Sundin, Sheldon Souray, Georges Laraque, Alexander Ovechkin, Pat LaFontaine, Glenn Anderson, Jeremy Roenick…just to name a few.

Roberto and I spent almost all day together at the Rio All Suites Casino. He was playing poker. I was just hanging out in the All Access VIP Lounge. I love that little green badge…ALL ACCESS VIP…same access that the hockey players get (without the badge, because it’s obvious I’m not a NHLer). :)

Pat LaFontaine is the most interesting guy in the alumnus world to me. During dinner, we (along with Glenn Anderson and Vanessa Rousso) talked about poker, probabilities and “The Outliers.” This little conversation turned into an off-season project for me based on what me, Pat and Glenn were discussing. I’ll publish the research later…

Remember how I was saying I had a star struck moment in Montreal? Well, I had another one in Vegas.

You would think Mark Messier would have me star struck…but no.

Since I had a lot of liquids during the NHL Charity Shootout (because my stomach decided it did not want to allow food in), I was constantly running to the ladies room every hour.

I had just come out of the ladies room and was making my way back to the VIP lounge. I started walking behind this guy that was heading in the same direction as me. I had to take a couple of steps back, because I was noticing something about this guy.

I took him in from head to toe from behind thinking, “Wow, this guy is really HOT!” I hadn’t even seen his face, but I can tell you, he was hot.

A bunch of fans approached him and asked for his autograph. I started thinking…ooooh…someone famous.

He then turned his head to the left to say something to his friend and then I realized, OF COURSE IT WOULD BE SHELDON SOURAY!

As one fan from Toronto put it, “Sheldon Souray is hot no matter which way you look at him.” I have to agree since I was saying this guy was hot just based on his backside and I didn’t even know that it was him!

Ok…so I am permitted ONE fantasy hockey player. Right?

While Sheldon was waiting for his poker game to start, I had to keep running into the VIP lounge to get some more coffee or water or juice. Lucky me, right? He was sitting next to the beverage table and would look up at me every time I came by.

I would grab my drink and head back out to the poker floor. Michelle and Sheldon in the same room is not a good thing. Giddy as a school girl comes to mind. ;) Which means, Michelle will be kicked out of VIP lounge by ESPN.

I learned some information about Mats during this time since he and his agent were hanging out all day (plus, Mats was sitting less than two inches from me during dinner). I even surprised Mats’ agent when I told him some of the research I had uncovered about Mats that needed further explanation. His agent was good enough to tell me what was going on as we were sitting next to the Holy Grail.

Yes, the ultimate highlight to end my season was spending 3 hours with the Stanley Cup. It was interesting watching Luongo eyeing the Cup. I could tell what he was thinking. So close, but yet so far. We talked about what he was thinking the next day and he said that he wanted to go up to touch it, but then decided he would wait until he earned the right to do it.

So this is why I keep pointing out Mr. Bettman.

I had to take a small break and head over to the Palms for a little party during my 13 hour day watching a bunch of hockey players playing poker. I made fun of Pat LaFontaine for saying he was at the party…wait, was I supposed to say he was there? ;)

Mr. Bettman was there and for the life of me, I couldn’t even get in there to hear what he was saying. It was a party after all and the press was just…well, if you couldn’t see him, you couldn’t hear anything!

I snuck out of the party early and headed back to the poker game, which ended up being a brilliant move, because Bettman apparently was heading in the same direction.

I got there 5 minutes before he did. I already had my seat next to the Cup, in front of the Cup’s keeper and Mats’ agent. We were sitting in the Flyers section (I think). Don’t know how that worked out that way, but we were in the Flyers section.

As the final round of the tournament is about to start, Bettman makes his way in and looks at me. I then realize…I’m the only member of the press here. THE ONLY ONE!

Actually, with one exception around lunchtime, I was the only person there all day long. Presence has a huge impact, especially when you are exactly where you are supposed to be and you are the only one there. People that need to notice…oh, they notice.

Hanging out with all of these players for hours upon hours on end…comes in handy at a later date, because they recognize you and immediately feel at ease when they see you…as if, ‘oh, this is okay’ when it comes time to interview them. It’s like an old friend talking to you.

Case in point…the NHLPA Meetings…

Scotty Hartnell got pretty sloshed during the game (it was pretty funny). Luongo kept encouraging the fans to bring Hartnell more beer. But in the end, Luongo threw in all of his chips (three times) and then Hartnell ended up winning it all.

NHL AWARDS

By the NHL Awards, I was so exhausted, hungry and suffering. Cigarette smoke is not my friend. I am so allergic, I felt like plucking my eyeballs out of my head at 3AM because they hurt so bad and I couldn’t sleep.

I did try to eat, but tummy really did not like the idea of food. Although, it did enjoy that one Egg benedict I had for breakfast. Just one…I have no idea why they serve two or all of those potatoes. I think it’s to screw with my stomach b/c seeing means bigger appetite, right? Well, tell that to my stomach that wanted no part of it.

Trust me, I hated Vegas after this because Treasure Island’s restaurant options just didn’t work to my benefit as far as food goes. Just wait until next year (or December when I do a 1/2 marathon).

Back to hockey…

I didn’t expect to cover the Awards in a press room. But at least we knew who was winning before they announced it.

While interviewing the nominees before the Awards, I didn’t notice that my hand was on Ovechkin’s chest. I don’t think he noticed either. I was feeling so tired and weak at this point, I just let my Blackberry rest on his chest. When I was getting ready to walk away and interview Luongo, I realized my blunder.

Best dressed guy was definitely Mike Green. He had great hair. It’s the hair that makes the outfit. ;)

I heard that Malkin had decided to ignore certain reporters. I thought that was weird. They’d ask their question and then he’d turn away (sounds like something I would do).

I had to wait to talk to Parise. The reporter that was talking to him told me later that I should have interrupted because they were just chatting…nothing press related. Something about the way Zach skates…it’s identical to the way his father (J.P. Parise) skates.

I really wanted to interview Malkin, but instead…remembering my blunder from the NHL All-Stars decided against it (because Ovechkin was too busy to clear things up if the interview went weird). So as I was standing there getting feed from Mike Green’s interview with the Caps guys, I stood there watching Malkin daydreaming of interviewing him in Russian. Funny thing is, Malkin kept looking up at me as I was staring.

The stare wasn’t meant to illicit attention, because I’ve had men cross the room and tell me that they’ve never had a woman look at them so intently before…and next thing you know…you’re making out with the guy.

I was reminded of that incident and quickly turned my attention back to Mike Green. I have no idea why every British comedic romance book about a reporter comes into my head at this point. Because after you realize you’re daydreaming of interviewing someone in Russian, you realize…oh crap…he may mistake my staring for something else, so you keep looking back at the guy thinking…oh crap…he doesn’t think…

And then you see him looking back…and you’re like…oh crap…he does.

You see…the reason why I was daydreaming about interviewing Malkin in Russian was because that happens to be my dream interview. I started taking Russian last year at NYU in hopes of being able to do my interview with Malkin in Russian.

My Russian still isn’t good enough to do an interview with Malkin, but someday it will be. It’s a dream of mine to interview him in Russian.

So just imagine standing a few feet away from him and thinking, wow…this is within my reach…but then thinking…why is the only Russian word I can think of PRIVET?

That’s what I was thinking about during my daydream. Purely innocent, kids. Always work related until you realize…oh crap…I think I may have sent off the wrong signal.

For those who weren’t there…I had on a killer dress. It actually illicited a gawk from one player. His drink was about to touch his lips when he looked up and saw me and his mouth dropped. He couldn’t take his eyes off me. Yeah…it was a nice maxi dress (i.e. to the floor full length dress, no cleavage, just lots of color). Even one of the Russian presenters liked it. He spent some time talking to the dress…not to me. [How embarrassing, right?]

Weird part is…that Russian presenter and I know each other and I still haven’t figured out where we’ve met before, but I know we’ve spoken to each other in the past.

Now, word has gotten around that I was at the NHL Party and jetted after 15 minutes. Where did I spend most of my time while I was there? In front of the Awards. Those things were gorgeous. It’s like looking at the crown jewels of hockey. I stared at the Vezina trying to see if I could find Marty Brodeur’s name on it (no luck).

I left the event and headed back to my hotel, where I tried to find something to eat and none of the restaurants would work with me and suggested room service (nothing on their menu were foods my doctor would recommend). So I went to bed hungry and hating Las Vegas.

NHLPA MEETINGS

Buddy Oakes (PredsOnTheGlass) was at the Awards. We both write for Inside Hockey, but he was there on behalf of his local paper.

When we got the email from our editor giving us the location of the NHLPA meetings, we headed there on our last day in Vegas.

I mention Buddy because I thought Georges Laraque was going to beat him up.

Georges was in a heated interview where he was talking about his favorite subject that always gets him worked up: fighting and the possible ban of it.

After his tirade with one reporter, Buddy asked him a question and Georges turned to him and kept saying, “What do you mean? I don’t understand…” and then he started edging towards Buddy like, “You talking to me?” attitude.

My eyes widened thinking…uh oh…

Buddy starts taking a few steps back as Georges is getting bigger and bigger by the moment…very threatening like.

Buddy repeats his question and Georges eventually answers it and starts to storm off and go hit a punching bag or something until I say, “Georges, can I ask you a question?”

He was still steaming until he noticed it was me. He never even noticed I was there during the entire exchange.

I am about two feet shorter than Georges. You can’t even see me in Buddy’s video because he’s so much bigger than me.

So when he looked down and finally noticed me…complete change in attitude. He went from a 10 on the anger scale to a 0 in no time flat. Why?

Notice I said something about being someplace where people will take note of you and then it’s like talking to an old friend when you interview them? Yeah…I spent breakfast hanging out with Georges Laraque and his friend in the VIP lounge before his poker game. So Georges remembered me from that. We were sitting at the same table and all…

He was the sweetest guy ever after we started talking. It was like night and day. Mean to the other guys, sweetest guy in the world to me. Hmmm…is this what we call unfair favoritism?

If you haven’t seen the video, it’s a must see. Even Puck Daddy had it up on his blog. It was just too funny.

OTHER NOTABLE MOMENTS

Bobby Holik is the scariest guy in the world to interview…but also the funniest. He’s scary because as a reporter, you always have this fear that he’ll take the question, turn it around on you and then refuse to answer it. He’s nutty like that.

He likes to make fun of reporters to their face. It can be quite humorous, but lord knows the newbies and young’uns are scared to ask him anything, because I don’t think we can take the humiliation.

Brendan Shanahan can be a little mischevious at times. He tried to steal Marty’s catching glove on the night Marty got his 552nd win. Shanny made sure to tell me that he returned it after I came up with photos that I took from the press box catching him in the act of stuffing the glove under his jersey. Yeah…even caught the teammates that were in on the theft too…

But Marty had a good laugh when I showed him the photos. So all in good fun. Marty was even more surprised to learn that Shanny was going to sell the glove on Ebay.

ROUNDUP

All in all it was a great season. It had it’s good times and bad times.

I got to meet so many people in the NHL and was star struck only ONCE (well, twice by the same guy).

The reason why I did everything I could this season was because there is no telling what the future holds. You have to live each moment like it is your last. I wanted to really experience everything this season just in case something happened in my life and I couldn’t.

The NHL and the Devils have been absolutely wonderful throughout this entire season.

As I go into my second season, things change. The career expands. More opportunities are taken advantage of. You will be amazed at what I’ve been working on this summer as I head into season 2.

You close one door only to walk through another door and the opportunities just keep getting better and better.

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