Today was essentially an off day for just about everyone relevant to the Hockey Tournament, so I figured I'd save this for later.
I started to do some work for Future Considerations this last week- I will essentially be a scout/media jackal/feature writer for them, and my season began with the first Upper Midwest Elite League game in New Hope on Tuesday. I got there a bit early, and had a brief exchange with another scout who was there to take in the action (pro tip: want to identify a scout at a game? Look for the leather portfolio they will be carrying around.)
I cracked wise about us being the only two at one end of the ice (this was before the hordes of hockey parents came in) and he remarked "that there will be events where you wish it was this empty. Once people find out what you are here to do, you make friends that you don't want."
Which brings me to last night.
I basically broke every sort of driving law on my way from Muskegon to Traverse City: I sped, because I knew I was going to be late for the game (just how late was to be determined,) I was checking my phone for messages and Twitter updates (I thought the game started at 6:30, but saw on Wild.com it was 5:30- I was looking for confirmation) all the while cruising well above the speed limit.
God bless Michigan drivers- they drive fast. And thank you to Julie Robenhymer, who tweeted that there was about 5 minutes left in the first period, and I was about 26 miles out. I made it to the arena for the last half of the second period- grabbed a slushie and some popcorn, and grabbed an open spot along the rail for the rest of the stanza.
Now, I don't know if any of you have been the Centre I.C.E. Arena: the actual building is huge, but it houses two rinks, so everything is a bit condensed. Metal bleachers, but when you get to the top of the aisles, you have big concrete pillars which affect sight lines if you're standing on the top of the concourse or in the central corridor between the two rinks. I grabbed a cup of coffee at the next intermission, and grabbed a seat in a section of the top row where there were just two spots between the aisle and a big pillar. I grabbed the seat on the aisle.
Just as the puck drops, someone hops down next to me for the final period, between the pillar and I.
I do a double take.
Now I mentioned last night that it was a who's who there: entire front offices, scouts from many leagues, players, coaches, etc. And here's a guy, Hall of Fame Defenseman with six Stanley Cups, legendary in scouting circles, and the Coordinator of Amateur Scouting for Minnesota, sitting down right next to me.
The puck dropped to start the Third Period, and play began. At the first stoppage I leaned over and said that (he and the front office) had "done a great job with the last few Drafts." He said thank you, but that "some of the kids have a long way to go." That kind of broke the ice a bit- he knew that I knew who he was and what he did, and I supposed it may have helped show my allegiance that I was wearing a North Stars jacket. Lapointe then began to initiate some conversation- (imagine that gruff and sometimes indecipherable French-Canadian accent) "you know, we don't even have 5 of our best kids here...Granlund, Brodin, and Larsson are in Europe..." and I finished it with "and Coyle and Zucker are in the NCAA."
"Ya, so we are seeing a totally new team!"
He asked me if I was from Traverse City, and I told him how I came from Minnesota to watch the Tournament- now I'm going to go with that he seemed impressed by that, although there may have been a chance that he was saddened for my existence. I noticed he had a line chart, folded up into an origami swan at times, with a couple of names highlighted. Just out of respect I won't list them, but I believe that all of them (the Minnesota kids are, that I know) are there on tryouts.
Now, to bring it back to the little prologue; I didn't want to make myself a friend he didn't want. Sure, I could have talked shop AT him the entire time, but thought it was best to pick my spots. We talked about Kris Foucault (that was him who nudged me and said "wooooo" after Foucault's game winner) and his inconsistency, how it was nice to see Tyler Cuma back on the ice, and how at times The Wild just failed to make the simple plays: chipping the puck out of the zone on the PK, getting the puck deep when they had the lead, and elements of that nature. I wanted to shake his hand at games' end, and tell him I'd see him at the next game, but with the Carter Sandlak/Willie Coetzee fight it ended it- in what should have been an even up situation (Sandlak had highsticked Brendan Smith, which caused Coetzee to come after Sandlak- an instigator penalty) they still gave the man advantage to Detroit, with a minute or so left.
Lapointe turned to me and goes "That is bullsh*t. I gotta go yell at the ref." Up he went, down the concourse, and right into the face of (presumably) the Director of Officiating. As I passed him on my way out, he was still fired up about it, as he was talking with another Wild Scout, Paul Charles.
In August when I finally cemented plans to come here, I told that to another scout- he said that its a great time, and a nice place to meet people in the hockey world. Sure as hell, the first full period of the week (for me anyways) I end up sharing a conversation with Guy Lapointe, a legend in his own right, and the Head Cheese of Amateur Scouting for my favorite hockey team.
I can't wait for tomorrow.