August 1990, the Montreal Canadiens are holding a mini training camp at the rink 5 minutes from my house. In a world before text messaging and email (yes, there wz a time b4 email) my buddy calls me and says "get down to the rink, the Habs are there!!"
To my amazement, there they are...playing on our home rink. We'll after watching these guys for what seemed like an eternity most of them came over to sign some autographs and for the small group of 20 kids it was like we had won the lottery. Carbonneau, Roy, McPhee, Walter, Corson, and all came over and signed stuff for us. While signing my hat, a bold 15 year old, let's call him "Stu" asked Brian Skrudland for a tour of the dressing room. Looking a little perplexed, because they were training in our rink he said to come back in an hour and we did. An hour later, there he was ready to show us...our dressing room, except our jerseys were replaced with the "CH" and instead of one or two rolls of sock tape sat a case of it in the middle of the room. He spent time with us and answered every stupid question we could think of and then thanked us for cheering for the team. I remember thinking, this is Montreal you don't have to thank me for cheering for the Habs.
That fall with enough allowance saved up I ordered a pro Habs sweater (fighting strap and all!) and when the lady at the Forum souvenir shop asked which player I wanted on the back, my immediate reply was Skrudland #39. She said "are you sure you don't want Richer or Roy?", and I replied again with "#39, size 52 merci".
A few months into winter I'm standing outside the Forum freezing my butt off waiting to get #39 to sign my jersey. Not knowing what time they got off the ice for practise I arrived early in the morning and waited 4 hours. When #39 came out and saw the jersey he remembered meeting us the previous summer and how he got in trouble for giving us a tour. After the signature, he asks if I'd like to watch the Habs practise tomorrow and told the security guard to let me in.
My buddies who thought I was full of it didn't believe me, so I told them to come down and watch me walk right into the Forum while they stand outside. Sure enough, I presented myself to the security desk and walked right in. The only rule the guy gave me was to keep quiet, absolutely no autographs and don't bother the media either. I'm sitting in the reds, watching the drills and thinking it can't get any better. Once they left the ice, I made my way to the exit and just as I was handing over the visitors pass the old man at the desk hands me a stick from #39.
I wrote this story and went down memory lane because #39 came up in discussion on the show this morning after he appeared (rightly or wrongly) on TSN's top 20 Montreal Canadiens list, a list put together by guys like Scotty Bowman and Dick Irvin. There was plenty of debate on our show as to who should be on the list and one that will make for a fun debate among the 4 billion Hab blogs.
I never did get a chance to thank Skrudland for the stick, so if he ever does read this...thank you #39, I still have it.