Let me start this with a disclaimer: this is going to be a homer post.
When it comes to meeting celebrities, anyone associated with hockey or hockey broadcasting is up there for me. I’m a huge hockey fan and have been a Calgary Flames season ticket holder for many years. Much of mine and my husband’s lives revolves around the 82-game regular season, a few season ticket holder events and other Flames Foundation events when we can attend (on top of playing on rec teams ourselves). Hockey is a huge part of our lives and our dedication to being Flames fans is no exception to that.
This week we attended the Sportsnet Brightest Stars Luncheon at the Saddledome. The event recognized Flames players and members of the community with a few awards. Overall it was a really cool experience and I wanted to share it with my readers.
When we entered the event, the room was full of what I would consider ‘stars’. The guest speaker was CBC Hockey Night in Canada and Rogers Hometown Hockey‘s Ron Maclean. My husband bought me his book “Hockey Towns” for Christmas this year and I brought it along on the off chance I would have a chance to have Maclean sign it. Not only did he say it was an honor to sign the book when I asked (like a little fangirl), he took a significant amount of time to chat with my husband and I on a really personal level and it was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had.
Each table featured at least one ‘celebrity’ and ours had two! (see photo above) I think my husband laughed a bit to himself when we approached our table and saw Flames player Dennis Wideman sitting there. He smiled at me as if to say “you are probably the most excited person in this room to have been sat with Wideman.” (some background here: I could be quoted with “See!!! Wideman’s the best!” every time he makes a great play in a game, so to sit with a player that I admire and think is really great was super cool. I know this is odd to some as he isn’t one of the big name stars like a Johnny Gaudreau, for instance, but I was pretty excited to chat with him over lunch!). We chatted about baseball and cities he’s played in that we have visited. Also at our table was Jakub Nakladal, a newer face to the big club (he spent some time in the AHL to get used to the size of the NHL ice versus international). He was really friendly and cool to talk to as well.
The event provided opportunities for us to mingle and meet new people as well as the entire Calgary Flames team and coaching staff. There were also members of the TV and radio broadcast teams (even Harnarayan Singh from CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi).
Each of the Flames players that we met were incredibly personable and friendly, some even approaching us with their hand held out with a “Hi, I’m Dougie” (for example). I hope that other NHL and professional sports organizations can boast the same level of friendliness and interaction from their players to the fans. No photo or fan conversation was inconvenient or a problem for any of them. They obliged and once the snap was taken asked us questions and initiated genuine conversations. This wasn’t just reserved for the veterans or the guys who’ve been in the league or on the team for awhile – players like rookie Garnet Hathaway or recent emergency call-up Tyler Wotherspoon were just as approachable and chatty. I’m sure this great attitude and genuine appreciation for the fans comes from the top down (I’ve heard Brian Burke speak at enough season ticket holder events to know that my experience today would be music to his ears for the kind of culture he’s tried to create in Calgary).
We also met Rogers Sportsnet’s Flames play-by-play announcer Rick Ball (he is really tall!). What struck me most about him was how humble he was, not that I expected otherwise, but when complimented he would always build up those around him. He was incredibly interesting to speak with, too. When I told him what a huge Kelly Hrudey fan I am, he said people flock to him in every city (note: Hrudey does color commentary on the Flames broadcast with Ball).
I really hoped to meet the Fan 960’s Pat Steinberg (again, fan girl) but I think he was on the air while the event was on. Maybe next time!
Overall, it was a great event and I had an amazing time. It was cool to meet the players and those who bring us hockey every season.