By the time you begin reading this I’ll likely be 60 minutes into my drive to the University of Florida in Gainesville where my daughter Alexandrea, otherwise known on Twitter as LilMissRatTrick will be attending college and beginning her freshman year. Though I never cared much for the Florida Gators, over the past few months I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m now a Gator for life. (picture me doing the Gator chop, right hand over left). I’m sure my writing brother Dave Lasseter appreciates this! This article is more of a human interest story, than a post about hockey, although there is a correlation between the two.
When LilMiss first came into the world on June 8, 1994, the New York Rangers were in the Stanley Cup final against the Vancouver Canucks. Game seven was played on June 14th, and we watched the game from the hospital as she was spending her 6th day in the neonatal intensive care unit of Plantation General on her road to recovery. Hockey was in her blood even in her first few moments of life.
While she plans on coming home for the home opener, the balance of the season will find her watching most of the games from her dorm, or mabye a local pub. Thing is, she won’t be here at home. Coming to realize this has all unfolded this week for me as today came creeping closer. It’s been a crazy and busy week with lots going on professionally, as well as personally. Months ago I felt that this day would be like any other with maybe a tear or two shed as we drive away. Friends who know me beg to differ, and I think they’re going to be right. I was called headstrong, stubborn as well as sensitive this week. And while many people would agree (heck even I do), those of you who know me well are aware that deep down I’m more sensitive and thoughtful than I sometimes portrait. Bottom line….I am going to miss her.
Kids and sports create a bond along with memories that can last a lifetime. My father and I had it with both baseball and hockey. I feel the same spirit with my daughter. While we love both sports, hockey is the one that is most prevalent between us. She began going to games at the tender age of three, and immediately seemed to grasp the atmosphere and the dynamic of the game that we all do. Face it, when you go to a hockey game, you cannot help but be roped into believing what a great sport it is. The fast paced action, the physical style, the acrobatic saves, and the slick moves all can bring you to the edge of your seat. There was one night in particular that I think sealed the deal for her. If you heard this before, I won’t mind if you stop reading.
It was a night in January of 2001. Alexandrea was 6 years old on her way to 7, and if I don’t mind saying so the cutest little girl you’d ever see. We had a pair of season tickets upstairs in section 408, which was just far enough away from the action on the ice to not make my eyes bleed from the disaster that was happening on it. The Florida Panthers at that time relied completely on Pavel Bure to win hockey games. That kind of planning got them exactly 22 wins that season as were subjected to watch players like Yan Golubovsky, Mike Wilson, and Peter Ratchuck try to mesh with other….. ahem, talented players like Ivan Novoseltsev, Denis Shvidki and the ghost of Igor Larionov. Bure had 92 points that season. The next closest player, Viktor Kozlov, had 37 in 51 games. And then he was traded.
Thankfully for the Russian Rocket there was excitement at some level. Otherwise it was bad. No actually is was awful. But nonetheless it was hockey, regardless of the frustration provided on most nights. But a six year old little girl just wanted to see the game, and on this night we saw it from about as close as she would ever.
The Panthers were playing the Buffalo Sabres, a team that except for Dominick Hasek wasn’t all that interesting. As we sat in our seats upstairs, we could see that the lower bowl of the arena was pretty empty on this night. Shortly after the first period began a Florida Panther employee came up to us and asked me if we wanted to move downstairs to get closer to the action? Who wouldn’t? As we entered through the curtain of the lower bowl area from the mezzanine, we found ourselves walking down the aisle that would put us in seats near the Sabre bench. Actually we ended up two rows behind the bench, which was close enough to hear the skates scrapping the ice, and the pucks clanking off the boards and glass. The game moves at a different pace at this level. Everything is faster, louder, and more intense. Since we had been sitting so close I wanted her to see something special that would hopefully leave a lasting impression.
Then it happened. A puck had made it’s way into the Sabre bench, and it was caught by a young backup goaltender named Martin Biron. Biron instantly knew what he was going to do with this puck, as he caught it, looked straight at me and pointed to my daughter as tho to say “you catch it and give it to her”. Which is exactly what I did. I don’t think I ever saw her eyes any bigger than on that night, and after that moment. She had a glow that seemed to last forever, and that little gesture started her on a mission of collecting pucks from any team’s city that she visited.
There are many moments in our lives that bring us happiness. While I share this story with you, I know it has very little reader appeal to most. However, telling it makes me deal with the fact that this little girl has grown up, and is now a young lady who has worked so very hard to be where she’s at, and is headed off to college. This day snuck up on me, and it snuck up fast. I am grateful to have such a wonderful child who has grown into a wonderful person with a bright personality, as well as a bright future. I couldn’t be more proud.
I don’t know exactly how to “end” this article. I’ve changed things so many times already it seems like my thoughts are all over the place. I know this. Not being able to go to games with her, and knowing that she’s not at the arena, while I’m spilling popcorn on Dave, Josh and Paige in the press box will make this season very different.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @TheRatTrick , David Lasseter @davidlasseter , Josh Luecht@joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick3, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, David Rodriguez @davidbub_2, Paige Lewis @RatTrickLewiz Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Adam Reid@AdamReid Chrissy Parente @chrissaay44, Justen Rosenberg @justenrosenberg, and Kris Eberwein @RatTrickKris. Also, please join our Facebook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and tell us what’s on your mind.