The 2005/06 hockey season was Sydney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin’s rookie year. My son James was turning 12 that January, and while most kids his age were wearing Crosby jersey’s, James had an Ovechkin jersey on his Christmas list.
Bruce surprised James with the jersey and topped it off with 100 level tickets to a January game of Washington vs. Ottawa. It was beyond exciting.
On game day, we arrived about two hours before puck drop. James did not want to miss a thing, and hoped to have his jersey autographed by Ovie.
I explained to James that the autograph was highly unlikely. But when we got to the arena, he went right down to the area where the players get onto the ice and he stood with his sharpie pen and his jersey, and he waited. We were there an hour before warm up….so it was a long wait.
When the players finally surfaced, James waited anxiously for the great #8. When Alex showed up, he stood off to the side for a while before stepping onto the ice. James was fixated on him. Callng his name repeatedly “Alex” “Ovie” “Alex, over here”…etc. But Alex did not even look up, he was too focused on the game in front of him.
During the warm up more and more fans started to appear. James got talking to the fans who were sitting behind the Washington bench. He bonded with them.
After the warm up, James came back to our seats. “Where is your jersey?” I ask. “I left it with some of the guys I met” he says, “the lady on the end of the row is the aunt of one of the Washington players, she is going to ask him to ask Ovie for an autograph”. I was pretty concerned that the jersey was going to disappear, and that I would have a very disappointed boy to contend with, but he seemed confident that his new found friends were looking out for him.
The game got underway, and we settled back and enjoyed it. The seats were great, and we were excited to be there. At intermission, James headed down to the Washington bench area to check on the status. So far, no luck. But they assured him that they would keep trying.
The second intermission was the same. No autographs yet, but check back after the game.
When the game ended, we headed down to pick up the jersey. Alexander Ovechkin was the first star, and he skated out onto the ice and tossed his stick out to a fan. That was exciting! We stood and watched his every move.
As he skated off the ice, he seemed to pause for a brief second before he continued back to the locker room.
As we made our way down the last couple of stairs, we thought we saw excitement in the eyes of the new found friends who were the custodians of the rookie jersey for the duration of the game. Could it be possible? Yes! Mission accomplished! Jersey signed by Alex the Great!
I honestly don’t think I have ever been that excited in my whole life. I was actually jumping up and down with glee. James was over the top. He was happy that the new found friends pulled through for him, but probably not as shocked as I was. I mean, I had half expected that we would never see that jersey again when he had handed it over to complete strangers and trusted them with his prized possession. But they pulled through for him after all.
On the way home, I was so excited I actually called the radio station and told them the story. I could hardly speak I was so excited.
The jersey became a prized possession, James wore it with pride many times. It now hangs in a prominent position in our basement among many other jerseys as part of a collection. To this day James has remained an unwavering Ovie fan, and considers the autographed jersey hanging on the basement wall to be priceless.