Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Polaroids From A Season Past

Heather started this the other day when she went on about Pirate Radio and how it reflected her view of the season. That got me thinking -- which is always a dangerous thing -- and perhaps it was Heather's thinking, or perhaps it came from watching Elton John videos when getting the "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" post. But to me, this season represents Almost Famous, one of my favorite movies.

I don't know how many of you've seen the movie, it's one of my favorites, but it bombed at the box office way back in 2000. Anyway, it's about this kid named William Miller, based on Cameron Crowe, the writer and director of the movie. And it's the story of how this 15-year-old-kid lands an assignment in 1973 from Rolling Stone -- who thinks he's much older to write a story on a band called Stillwater. He joins the band on tour, and while it's supposed to be a short journey, he finds that he just can't get away from them, going from San Diego to New York City.

I've left out a lot of the nuance, and I've really simplified the story. But there's a scene about halfway through the movie where the band has a huge fight, and they find themselves in Topeka, Kansas and on the verge of breaking up. William and the guitar player, Russell Hammond, wind up at a party in a suburban neighborhood where Hammond takes LSD and calls himself a golden god before jumping off the house into the pool. William gets him to safety, back on the band bus, and they're off for the next venue.

Here comes the point I've been building to. And I'll post the clip at the bottom. But they're all gathered on the bus, all wondering what the future holds when Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" starts to play. And slowly, one by one, the entire bus breaks out, singing the song. And William says to woman next to him, Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson, whose character is sleeping with Hammond in the movie, that he needs to go home. And she looks at him and says, "You are home."

So what's the point of all of this? Heather talked about how there's nothing better to her than being on the press row during a game with Andrew and myself. And that's damn special. But for me, it was last Saturday night/Sunday morning. It's about 3:00 a.m. and I'm on the Pennsylvania Turnpike heading to Philadelphia so that I could catch my flight home. I'm tired. I'm trying to find anything on the radio to keep me awake. There's no traffic. No traffic. And it dawns on me. It's me, but there's nothing better than this. On the road, covering a hockey team in the playoffs. Sure, Kate Hudson's not leaning her head on my shoulder like in the movie, and I'm not on bus with a bunch of folks singing "Tiny Dancer," but I'm home.

It's all over now. Next week I'm bag to my normal world of temporary legal employment. That world that pays my bills. But I know where my home is.

Now at the end of the movie, William has to write his story. Throughout the movie, he's been taking Polaroid photos, and as he writes his story, he looks at the photos. So I hope you'll indulge me a bit as I share with you, my "Polaroids" of the season.

1. I'll remember Jean-Michel Daoust putting on a pair of boots worn by the Dynamics -- he was in his suit -- after one of the Peoria playoff games. Heather was there, she saw it, too. And I remember after another playoff game, going through the media dining room to get the media room to write. And the player wives, girlfriends, and children were gathered in the room. And there was Daoust, a huge smile on his face, playing with the kids.

2. I remember the first time we interviewed Jared Spurgeon after a game, right before he got called up to the Wild. He looked so young, so tiny -- Daoust looked like a giant compared to Spurgeon.

3. There was Colton Gillies choking up, struggling to answer, as I asked about his memories of Derek Boogaard.

4. It's not so much the game seven game-winning goal against Milwaukee that I remember so much, but instead I still see Chris Jerina jumping up from his seat and banging the glass.

5. I remember being on the ice after game seven against Hamilton as the guys came out to the salute the crowd.

6. Jon DiSalvatore always had this little twinkle in his eye during the playoffs. It was like he couldn't believe how much fun he was having, and just how much he was enjoying his teammates.

7. There were the three games toward the end of the year against Oklahoma City. That beating that Patrick O'Sullivan took shift after shift, game after game. And I thought that those people who thought O'Sullivan was soft had obviously never really seen him play because I couldn't believe the punishment he was taking, punishment he was taking yet kept getting up from.

8. I think the biggest thing I'll most remember about this team is the same thing Jon DiSalvatore will most remember. It's the guys. The way they rallied around each other. The way they sacrificed the good of their game for the betterment of the team. It was a joy to cover this team, to be around this team.

9. And I'll remember the press box, table more like it, that I shared with Andrew and Heather every game. How's that awful old song from the early-70s go, "We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun." It's hard to believe it's over. Thank you for allowing me to share a table with you.

10. I remember that game when Patrick O'Sullivan joined the team. And it became evident then just how special this team could be.

11. And I still can't get it out of my mind. Robin Lehner throwing his stick in the air and the Senators going into full on celebration mode as the Aeros sunk to their knees on the ice, not able to believe it was all over. And I'll remember the fans, applauding the team, applauding the Sens as the Calder Cup was rewarded to them and they passed it around.

And finally, some thank yous and acknowledgements.

Thank you, Rich Bocchini, for your assistance throughout the season. He took over the media relations position literally right before the season started. He was under constant pressure throughout the season, but whatever I needed, or Andrew, or Heather, he got us.

Thank you, Joe O'Donnell. You're a true professional who we're lucky to have here on your way to the big time.

Thank you to Dave Maxwell who helped with access, and with getting us the players we needed for interviews. He was a special help on the road during the playoffs when he was conduit to the locker rooms in Peoria and Milwaukee and made sure I got the players I needed.

Thanks to team trainer Jody Green for coming through with the sinus meds I so desperately needed in Peoria after game four. And thanks to the entire medical staff who so generously shared their spot on the corner with me after I tried the photography thing.

Thanks to the entire Aeros staff of trainers and equipment guys we talked to and bumped in to and got in the way of every night. Thanks to Gary and the rest of the security staff.

Thanks to Mike Yeo, Darryl Sydor, and Brian Wiseman for not treating me like the idiot about hockey that I truly am. And thanks to Jim Mill for that same reason. Maybe someday I'll know all of the ins and outs of hockey like I do of baseball.

Thanks to Jon DiSalvatore for always being willing to take questions, even after painful, difficult losses. And thanks to Jed Ortmeyer for that same reason.

I want to thank Fred Trask for being with us, and me, in spirit. I was afraid that Fred would be upset with me for trying to photograph the games, because Fred should have been the one doing that. But Fred offered me advice on what cameras to purchase and gave me tips on what I should try to doing to make my work better. Thanks, Fred. I'm just your temporary replacement, and I hope that someday I can relinquish back to you the role of T3I photographer.

Thanks to Chris Jerina, our Midwest Bureau Chief, for so willingly traveling all around Illinois and Wisconsin and other parts to provide us with photography and news.

Thanks to Andrew and Heather. And thanks to everybody for reading.

Who would have thought in December that this season would have gone like it did? Who would have thought then that everybody would be so disappointed? It was a special season for the Houston Aeros, and it's one that I'm happy that I, in my own way, was able to participate in. That we all, in our ways, were able to participate in.

And as promised...


Sarah said...

Fantastic movie...great scene with "Tiny Dancer". It was an amazing journey with these guys this season. I wish them all the best of luck!

Anonymous said...

3ccc3 says - Thank you John, Heather and Andrew for all your work. Without your articles we would not have been able to read so many of those interviews with the players, coaches and other insiders and been prevvie to a lot of inside info.

Wykdfairie said...

I want to thank all of you for your coverage. Its always insightful and it brings a person closer to the game.

This post brought tears to my eyes. Its all those things that have happened over this season wrapped up in one.

Dee said...

This kind of writing happens when you LOVE what you do. Thanks for making your memories come to life for the rest of us.

alw02 said...

John, Heather and Andrew - thank you so much for this year. Your efforts have made this year even more special.

Thank you all.

Sure do miss the action shots from Fred.