For years, my son James played competitive hockey for the Kanata Blazers. The teams that he played on would always have several out of town tournaments which would require overnight stays at hotels. All of the trips were to tournaments in Ontario.
One year, one of the hockey dads offered to take the entire team to a tournament in Markham Ontario on a yellow school bus. The dad worked for a school bus company as a manager, and he was quite comfortable behind the wheel. Many of us decided to take him up on his offer, and travelled in the bus.
Now it seemed like a great idea at the time, but there were a few things about traveling as a team that hadn’t occurred to me. For one thing, every time we stopped for a bite to eat, and a pitstop at a restroom, the whole team had to get off the bus, order food, eat their food, visit the restroom, and then get back on the bus. As you can no doubt imagine, there was no such thing as a “quick pitstop”. This became quite comical. We really had to closely consider each stop, because it would put us further and further behind schedule.
Perhaps somewhat naively, I purchased felt pens and printed off some hockey related pictures for the trip. I pictured the boys colouring, and enjoying the bus ride quietly. As we headed down the 401, one of the rather more rambunctious players threw the markers out the window. Lesson learned.
My son was a huge hockey fan at the time, and he got wind of a rumour that Curtis Joseph “Cujo”, a retired, but very famous NHL goalie, had a son who was playing in the tournament. James was a huge Cujo fan. Therefore, when packing for the trip, he packed jerseys from every team that Cujo had played for, along with an assortment of Cujo hockey cards. If James happened to meet Cujo, James was going to be prepared, and James was going to get his paraphernalia autographed.
As luck would have it, our team made it to the finals, and Cujo’s son was on the opposing team. The players on our team wore dress shirts with ties and dress pants, along with their team jacket. James was extremely excited about the prospect of meeting Cujo, and as such he somehow managed to wear several jerseys (which he wanted autographed) under his dress shirt. To say he was looking puffy would be an understatement. Not to mention, he must have been very hot and uncomfortable. This did not stop one determined hockey fan though, he was hell bent on getting his assortment of Cujo items signed.
Our team manager got quite a kick out of James and his stuffed shirt. Thankfully she marched right up to Curtis and told him that there was one very anxious hockey fan in our dressing room, and she had the courage to ask him to pay a visit to the boys. To everyone’s delight, Cujo stopped in and signed autographs for our boys. When he met James, he commented on how he had certainly come prepared! A very gracious Cujo took the time to sign James’ items before he left the room. Wow! Talk about making a young boy’s day!
Our team didn’t win that tournament, I seem to recall that it was Cujo’s son who dominated and helped his team win. But that didn’t matter much, at least not to me. What mattered was that one of the all time great NHL hockey goalies took the time to spend a few memorable moments with a room full of strangers.
The bus ride home was long, and our driver took at least one shortcut and had the boys relieve themselves at the side of the highway. We never did take a team bus after that trip, it was the kind of thing that was good to experience once.