Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Backstage pass

When it comes to hounding, the golden rule is being at the right place at the right time. It also helps, too, when you can snag unfettered access to the players. Just ask Brett, one of Hockey Bay's up-and-coming hounds, who loaded up on autographs following the Oct. 22 game between the San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Brett, who joins the ranks of Hound Central 5.0 correspondents, filed this report:

After the Sharks and Lightning game, I was lucky to get a guest pass and wait where the players exit the St. Pete Times Forum.

The first obstacle was talking the Lightning employees at guest services into letting me run to the car and get my hounding bag, stuffed with photos, cards and pucks. After getting back into the Forum, I headed down to the area.

While waiting, I wasn't sure how it would be at first. I debated whether it would be better just waiting at the Sharks hotel for them to return. Thankfully, I made the right choice by staying inside. I asked one of the guards how it is for autographs, and they said as long as you call them over, they should sign for you.

The first player out was former Lightning defenseman and current Sharks player Dan Boyle. He quickly came over and signed for anyone who wanted him before joining up with about 30 people who were waiting for him, leaving three people asking for autographs.

Next out was Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby, who is always good for signing whenever and whatever items you want.

Then a group of Sharks came out, including
Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Rob Blake. They all walked over and gladly signed what was presented to them. One of the last players out was Dany Heatley, who signed three cards before heading to the bus. The only Sharks player who refused to sign was Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who said, "Not now."

Other Sharks players who signed were Ryan Vesce, Ryane Clowe and Doug Murray.

The Lightning players were equally impressive, too. Among those signing were Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Victor Hedman, Ryan Malone, Andrej Meszaros, Drew Miller, Stephane Veilleux and Alex Tanguay.

This was a great time, and the players are a lot more down to earth and seem happy to stop, talk, and sign autographs.

Malone, I would have to say, left the biggest impression on me. Not only did he sign everything I had, but he stayed a few minutes after signing and just talked with me.

All in all, this was one of my most memorable moments and showed me what class acts hockey players truly are.

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