The New Jersey Devils team bus had left the Westin Harbour Island hotel Thursday. A couple of us were still hanging out, waiting on the Devils' healthy scratches to head over to the game.
Over walks a man, with a recognizable Canadian accent, asking us how we did with the Devils. Did we get autographs from Martin Brodeur, he asked? No, I told him, we hadn't. Unbeknownst to the future Hall of Famer, I'm sure, Brodeur only signed for dealers earlier in the day.
Eventually, our conversation turned to the Lightning. We talked about Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. Victor Hedman and Carter Ashton, the Bolt's two 2009 first-round picks, came up. How much of a mistake it was last season for the Lightning to hire Barry Melrose as a coach did, too.
It wasn't long, though, before I brought up James Wright's name. When it did, a smile grew across the man's face.
"That's my son, you know," he said. "James Wright."
Thankfully, I had made positive comments about the kid, talking about how he was a pleasant surprise, making the team out of training camp by playing more like a veteran than the 117th overall pick in 2008. Dad's smile only grew.
After that, we talked about being a hockey parent and the differences between youth hockey in Canada and the United States. As a rookie hockey dad, I enjoyed picking the brain of someone who's traveled the path I hope and pray we follow down the road.
As gametime approached and relatives gathered, Dad had one last question for me.
"So, did he sign an autograph for you," Dad asked? "He better have."
Yes, Mr. Wright, your son signed autographs. A fellow Hockey Bay Hound gave the one shown above to my young hockey player. But, let's hope, too, that your's sticks around a little longer. If you don't mind, I have a few more questions.
Addendum (10/14/09): St. Petersburg Times writer Joe Smith had a nice story about James Wright at tampabay.com.
Better than a goal
Sticking with the hockey dad theme, I'm learning to look for instances during Colin's games where his coaches see the potential of a kid playing in his first full recreational league season by handing him a heaping helping of responsibility. He had one of those moments Saturday night, when he pulled a shift as the only forward on a 5-on-3 penalty kill.
For an 8-year-old, playing against 9- to 12-year-olds, to be given that kind of responsibility, even if it came during a rec-league game, was pretty darn cool. Just like Mr. Wright, I was one proud daddy.
5 Big Sigs
Last Sunday, I said the only team we'd hound last week was the New Jersey Devils. Well, as you'll read over the next few days, we also squeezed in a visit Saturday for the Carolina Hurricanes.
This week, though, you have my word. There is only one team coming to Hockey Bay. It won't have to travel too far, either, as it'll be the Florida Panthers. After that, it'll be more than 10 days before another NHL club provides a hounding adventure.
With that in mind, here's what I hope to add:
~ A Czech Republic souvenir puck from Tomas Vokoun;
~ a U.S.A. souvenir puck from David Booth (missed him);
~ a Panthers puck from Dmitry Kulikov, taken 14th overall in 2009;
~ jersey memorabilia cards signed Jordan Leopold (yes), Steven Reinprecht (no) and Tomas Vokoun (yes); and
~ more than one card (he signed three) signed by Bryan Allen.