Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday morning homily I

Looking back, I suppose I could have waited. There's plenty of work to be done around the house. There was research for future postings that needed doing. Heck, I even could've taken a few naps.

But once tips started rolling into Hound Central 4.0 that some Tampa Bay Lightning players were taking part in informal practices at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, it was hard to resist the urge.

The cardbooks were ready, with two to four cards for most players arranged in alphabetical order. More than six dozen pucks were lined up, too. And, for good measure, the Houndmobile, my reliable 1998 Ford Taurus with nearly 230,000 miles on it, had a topped-off tank.

In all, I made three trips over to Brandon. In terms of hounding, some trips were better than others. But, more than anything, the trips went a long way in getting over my hockey withdrawal.

Even though I'd taken Colin to hockey skating lessons over the summer, and watched kids try out for the Junior Lightning, it just wasn't the same. As much fun as Colin and I have playing street hockey on the back patio, that wasn't enough, either.

No, it took the 60-plus-mile (round-trip) ride, as well as $6 in tolls each trip, to quell my hockey jones. It wasn't just about getting autographs. It was about the game, even if it was practice. It was hockey -- NHL hockey -- up close.

These scenes, culled from each trip, help with the recovery:

~ Watching former linemates Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards, breaking in on goalie Mike Smith during a scrimmage Friday, and then work a sweet give-and-go as Vinny buried the puck;

~ Listening as Richards told of his summer trip to Stockholm, Sweden, where he met up with ex-Bolt Fredrik Modin;

~ Getting a kick out of Brian Bradley, (he's the red blur, above), a member of the original Lightning squad, hold his own against the younger guys;

~ Seeing Mark Recchi, apparently running these precamp practices, start a scrimmage by letting a puck, once balanced atop his head, fall to the ice;

~ Smiling as Jason Ward celebrated a "goal" taken from a nearly impossible angle; and

~ Being amazed that goalie Olaf Kolzig, behind the wheel of a Maserati, would stop and wait for one hound (yes, me) to amble over with items for signing.

Going forward, or for at least this week, I'll spend a little more time on research and writing. But, I do have plans to take at least one ride over to Brandon.

With a little more than two weeks remaining before the start of the Lightning's training camp, held at the St. Pete Times Forum this year, I'm hoping more players, especially some of the new guys like Steven Stamkos, Gary Roberts, Matt Carle and Radim Vrbata, will take part in these sessions.

5 Big Sigs

Each week, throughout the season, I pick five items I'd like to get signed during the next seven days. This season will be no different, only in that I'll start with these precamp practices.

Here's what I'm hoping to add to the collection this week:

~ Vinny Lecavalier (Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, too, if they arrive) on the Team Canada jersey;
~ Chris Gratton, Olaf Kolzig, Paul Ranger, Mark Recchi and Mike Smith (as well as any new arrivals) on the Lightning team jersey;
~ Jason Ward, Gratton, Kolzig, Lecavalier, Ranger, Recchi and Smith (as well as any new arrivals) on the Lightning team helmet;
~ Though unlikely, recent addition Andrej Meszaros on the Lightning puck I had set aside for new Ottawa Senator Alexandre Picard; and
~ Nolan Pratt on a Buffalo Sabres puck (It's for my wife; she's a big fan since his days with the Carolina Hurricanes).

No comments: