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

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things...

Happy Birthday, Anton /photo by Fred Trask
It's still hard for me to believe that this great big ride that we've been on is over. Intellectually, I know it's been coming since before the season started. But I still trusted the adults would get together and work it all out, like adults are supposed to do. And even that last game, the loss to Grand Rapids, I somehow convinced myself that we'd all be be back for another round in the playoffs because it just couldn't end like that.

I was wrong. I've been wrong about a lot of things. Except for the Aeros leaving. For that, I was right, and for that, I really hate myself.

We're wrapping things up here at T3I. I've got another post planned for Thursday. [And here's my final Aeros post for the Houston Press.] I think Heather might have one left. And we're leaving it all to Andrew to wrap up since this was his baby. But before that, I feel compelled to share my favorite moments while serving as a beat writer covering the Aeros.

10. There was this one game in the 2009-2010 season where the only healthy goalie was Barry Brust. Because of a late player call-up, the Aeros didn't have time to call in another goalie. So Kevin Constantine suited up Jeff Crawford, an assistant equipment guy who helped out during practice and who had played some goalie during pick-up games and during practice. So of course Brust was injured during the first period, which led to Crawford leading the team out during second intermission warm-ups and taking shots. The scouts at the press table scrambled frantically to find information on Crawford, and were shocked when I told them who he was. Constantine was able to get a deal with the refs and the opposing team, giving him a few extra minutes before starting the second period. This gave the Aeros superb medical staff time to stitch up Brust and get him back out on the ice.

9. The puzzled expression on Mike Yeo's face as Milwaukee coach Lane Lambert tried to get into the referees locker room after the Admirals game five lost in 2011.

8. Matt Hackett "taunting" the Milwaukee crowd at the end of the Aeros game seven win in 2011. I put the "taunting" in quotes because what Hackett did was jump in the air and shout after Cody Almond scored what proved to be the series winning goal. Apparently players weren't allowed to celebrate in Milwaukee, but I think it was nothing more than a kid celebrating his team winning a game. And if he was taunting the Admirals crowd, then I can't think of a nicer fan base to be taunted.

7. Max Noreau's shot in game seven against Peoria in 2009 that went through the net and wasn't called a goal. I was looking down and missed it, but I was sitting next to Tom Lynn and Joe O'Donnell and they went ballistic. Play went on for awhile, but then Kevin Constantine was able to get the refs to stop play and inspect the net. The refs found nothing and didn't give the Aeros the goal.

6. Jon DiSalvatore leading the team across the ice, saluting the fans, after the Aeros defeated Hamilton in game seven to win the Western Conference Finals in 2011.

5. Krys Kolanos broke through the defense and had what appeared to be an easy breakaway goal. But he'd just been sit back down by the Wild, and it had been suggested that he work on being a better teammate, so he passed the puck back to a trailing Morten Madsen who then missed the shot. Why I remember this is Kolanos's reaction, throwing his hands in the air in disgust, and not even trying to hide his anger and bewilderment that Madsen missed such an easy shot.

4. For awhile, the Aeros did this thing where they'd put fans photos, taken during the game, and display them on the video boards. At this time, they were also bringing some fans down during the game to sit in the box between the benches, and then they'd put a photo of those fans, watching the game, up on the boards with the other photos. I happened to look up one time, just at the right moment, to see a photo of the fans who were in the box. And what I saw was Jed Ortmeyer, a huge grin on his face, leaning back away from the bench, looking at the camera, and getting in on the photo without anyone knowing.

3. Anton Khudobin wasn't really supposed to be playing goal for the Aeros in the 2009 playoffs. But Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust were injured, so Khudobin it was. That led to one of my all-time favorite moments, and the photo from Fred Trask posted above. Khudobin's birthday was the day of Game Four against the Milwaukee Admirals. Khudobin led the team to a win, and afterwards, while being celebrated as the number one star of the game, PA announcer Steve Vidal led the crowd in rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday."

2. It was a long, lonely, late-night drive from Binghamton, New York to Philadelphia on a Saturday night where I was catching the first flight home after game 5 of the 2011 Calder Cup finals. Most of that was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike which was very dark, very quiet, very lonely, and since I didn't have satellite radio in the car, very full of static.  But all I remember, besides being dead tired, was how much I loved what I was doing at the moment, following a minor league hockey team on its quest to win a championship. I wish I was back making that drive.

1. The Aeros were playing Peoria in the first round of the 2009 playoffs, and game seven was in Peoria. We all decided that one of us should make the trip to Peoria to cover that game. How else would the blog be taken seriously if one of us wasn't there? And since I'd just lost my job, it was decided that I would go, and since Andrew worked for Continental, and since Continental was still in an alliance with Northwest and Delta, Andrew hooked up the flight, my leaving the day of the game on the first flight to Detroit, where I'd connect for a flight to Peoria that would get me in several hours before the game. Only weather and equipment delays kept me stuck in Detroit until almost four o'clock. I landed in Peoria about six, got the shuttle to the hotel, took the hotel shuttle to the arena, and got to my seat next to then GM Tom Lynn and Joe O'Donnell as they were singing the anthem. But what made it all worth it, along with the win, was walking into the locker room after the game to get interviews, and seeing Danny Irmen, a huge smile on his face, shouting at me, "You made it!"

I'm going to end with something I've not done in a while, play a music video. It's from the movie Almost Famous. This comes from the end of the movie. Our hero, a young high-school aged rock music writer who's been travelling the country with a rising rock band, has just returned home, his heart broken. But now he finally gets his interview with his hero, the one who'd tried to kill his career, he's back with his family, the band's back on the road. So as we head to the credits, we get one last montage, set to Led Zeppelin's "Tangerine." I just think this song, and the end of the movie, really fits the way I feel at the moment. Just substitute "what do you love about music" with "what do you love about the Aeros?"

5 comments:

Ms. Conduct said...

#2 gave me a big "oh yeah" moment. These trips back and forth from Houston to Dallas to cover the team, often day trips... yeah. Just me and the beaver moon in Madisonville. I kinda miss it, honestly. In theory.

n0e11e said...

i can't visit this blog in public anymore. every entry turns me into a blubbering mess. thanks for that.

no really, thank you. the only thing the aeros' PR people did wrong was not give us a chance to say goodbye. i'm glad we get to do it somewhere.

Anonymous said...

john:

good article in the press and unfortunately it's right on the money.
i just hope i'm still around in this world to see les get his just rewards.
they might be the wild now but they will always be our aeros

Oldfan said...

Taking a deep breath and shedding a few more tears...I remember all those moments. Well, except for going into the locker room or your driving alone with no satellite radio. :) I too regret that the way things worked out there was no chance to tell the guys goodbye and let them know how much we loved them all and appreciated their efforts both on and off the ice.

Great article in the Press, John!

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize how much I missed the videos until now. Thanks to all 3 of you (and Fred) for sharing the experience with us all.