Friday, January 27, 2012

A Break of a Lifetime

I got a chance of a lifetime in the beginning of January.  I know this blog is about my dear sweet daughter and how our family copes... but sometimes coping can be getting away for awhile from everything.  I was given that opportunity by my wife as a Christmas (and birthday and anniversary ) present where I spent 5 days at Mario Lemeuix fantasy hockey camp.

I grew up in Pittsburgh and was always a huge hockey fan.  Since I got my first stick at age 8 the neighborhood guys would play street hockey every weekend in the fall/winter/spring.  I started skating in high school and picked the ice game up in college.  Mario was everyones hero including mine.

This camp was a 5 day affair. I went with 5 other guys I play hockey with in Altoona.  The gist of it that I got to play hockey with former pros including Mario, Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts, Tie Domi, Bill Guerin, Bryan Trottier, Jay Caufield, Mike Eruzione and Rich Tocchet in a round robin tournament.  MArio rotated on the different teams. The camp Benefited the Mario Lemiuex Foundation.  It was Awesome. 

The first night we had a meet and greet at the Lexus club at the Consol energy center.  Top notch dinner followed by contract signing with Mario.  Then you gathered up your free stuff:hockey bag, shell, gloves, helmet, sweat suit, coaching windbreaker, hat, beanie, under armour shirt.  Off then to the Cambria Suites with private room.  All the players including Mario stayed in the hotel.

The next morning we had practice at the Consol directed by Dan Bylsma, the Penguins coach, along with assistants Tony Granato and Giles Meloche.  Coach Bylsma was funny and personable.  He ran us through drills.  It was fun. I would say I was middle fifty as far as the guys there at the camp.   We then had lunch and an autograph session.  Mario gave us a stick that we had autographed by everyone.  Had Gary sign something special for Naomi.  

The first afternoon I found out I was on the Domi/Roberts team.  We played our first game at the Consol.  In the locker room downstairs it was awesome to see my jersey hanging up in the same room as Dome, Roberts, and Mario (we played with him first).  The pros did everything with us the whole camp, dressed, ate, rode the bus.  Total access and they were super nice and accomodating.  Our team played the Guerin/Eruzione team.  We lost, but I scored the first goal of the game, and the camp assisted by #66 himself.  What a dream come true.  They announced my name over the rink.  It was awesome.

We had dinner that night at the Casino and Roberts and Recchi sat at our table and talked with us the whole time.

The second day we bused it to the Robert Morris University facility with two rinks.  Played two games and won them both.  Ended up the first seed in the elimination phase.  That night went to the Pens- Devils game in the party suite.  Spent the first period talking with Eddie Johnston.  He came right up struck up a conversation.  Food and beverages included.  Great night (except they lost)

The next day we play our semifinal game at the outdoor rink on the southside.  My folks as well as Brent and Grace came to cheer us on.  First period I broke in 2 on 1 with Tie Dome.  HE feathered me a pass and I missed the net - chased it down in the corner and shot it back in the middle and banked it in!  He told me it would look the same as a top shelf slapper in the score page.  We ended up going down 5-2 with 5 minutes left.  I took the ice with Artie Demarsico (on of my Altoona boys) and Gary roberts.  Artie and I each get a goal (sweet pass from Roberts) and then Domi tied it up.  We ended up winning in a shoot out.

That evening we went to the Pens - Rangers game. Talked with Bryan Trottier for a long time.  Great guy.  Pens lost again.

The next day was the final at Consol.  Anne was supposed to come in, but they changed the time and she missed it.  My folks and buddy Bill made it down.  We played against Recchi/Trottier team. He was fresh off of winning the stanley cup in may with Boston.  Tough game that went back and forth.  I played horribly.  Everytime I looked up Recchi was playing D opposite me.  You cannot imagine how good all the pros were. The mainly tried to pass to the campers but when they wanted to get around you they did.  Mario scored a sick shot on a breakaway where he effortlessly flicked it in the upper right corner where it grazed both pipes.    We were down one in the third.  Tied it with 2 minutes left and won in a shoot out.  My buddy Joe Nyanko scored in the shootout.  He had been snakebitten the whole tournament but picked the perfect spot for a big one.  We won the Cup.  Domi and Roberts celebrated like it was the Stanley cup!  It was great.  It would have been great anyway but winning was sweet.  

Anyway, those 5 days will be a memory for a lifetime.  I missed Anne and Naomi terribly, but sometimes a break is nice.  I have some pictures below.

Signing day with Mario

At practice with coach Bylsma

Ready for the drop of the puck at the Consol

On the bench me, Mario and Tie
Trying to keep up

Fist bump after scoring from #66

He told me I could have scored 40 playing on his wing
Tearm photo

The Altoona guys with Roberts and Domi

Getting ready on the pond

Chasing down Mike Eruzione

Celebrating with Gary after a goal

Gary - I'm open on the wing

Missing badly - I did get the rebound and score

Overtime win!
We go to the finals!

Celebrating after the Finals Victory!

Recchi was good
What every boy dreams of

posing with the cup


  1. Love it. Maybe we will see you at another Penguins game
    Matt Hartman