Saturday, March 12, 2011

When Skateboarding and Hockey Collide

It was a big night for Sk8terdude, and I'll start with the highlight:

Sk8terdude got to meet Mike Vallely!

Now for the backstory, and I'll start at the beginning...

Once upon a time, apparently, Mike V wanted to be a pro hockey player, but he grew up to be a pro skateboarder.  In the meantime, a sports marketing executive named Herm Sorcher decided to reintroduce hockey to Danbury, Connecticut in the form of The Danbury Whalers.  A match made in heaven (or maybe the backroom of a dusty bar?) was born and in June, 2010, we learned that Mike V would be trying out for the team.

Up until this point, Sk8terdude wasn't much of a hockey fan, but he certainly wanted to go see a pro skateboarder take the ice..  Sk8terdad, on the other hand, is the consummate hockey fan - specifically a fan of the still-alive-in-his-heart Hartford Whalers.  So he certainly wanted to go see the "Green" skate and to hear Brass Bonanza reverberate throughout a hockey arena once again, even if the team included a skateboarder he didn't know much about beyond Paul Blart Mall Cop.

Together, Sk8terdude and Sk8terdad attended the first ever Danbury Whalers game on October 29, 2010.  Sk8terdad shelled out the money for a Vallely tee shirt for Sk8terdude (and a second one for OlderBrother, who was busy that night at a school event) and they looked forward to getting an autograph at the end of the game.

If you follow Mike V's career, you know what happened next.  He sat on the bench until the beginning of the third period.  Not five seconds into the period, he got his "Brass Bonanza" kicked by a player on the other team.  Unfortunately for Mike V (and for Sk8terdude), the fight was season-ending, as it resulted in a badly broken arm, and there were no autographs to be had that night....or any other night in the season.  Mike V was waived from the team a few days later.

Fast forward...Sk8terdad became a rabid Danbury Whalers fan.  (Am I the only one who thinks he secretly pretends he's still watching Hartford play???)  Sk8terdude and Older Brother became fans, too.  When the team made the playoffs, they were all excited, but Sk8terdude's excitement ramped up a few notches when he learned that Mike Vallely would be returning to Danbury to attend tonight's game.

After a series of tweets between me and Mike V, Sk8terdude had an invitation to come up to the suite to meet him between the 2nd and 3rd periods, and that brings us full circle to the beginning of this post.

Except for one thing...(or maybe two)...

I have to admit that one of the things I didn't always love about Sk8terdude's passion for skateboarding is the image I had of the skating community.  Let's face it, when the general public thinks about skateboarding, they don't exactly think wholesome, happy, family fun.  So I have had mixed feelings about Sk8terdude's choice of skateboarding idols over the years.  For example, I can't say I love the way Bam Margera treats his mother (although April seems to have a pretty good sense of humor about the whole thing), but Rob Dyrdek makes a mother proud (to my knowledge, he's never sawed the top off a Lamborghini).

As for Mike Vallely, my information about him was limited.  I knew he had really long hair in Mall Cop.  No judgement there, just data.  I knew he was sporting a lot of ink.  Some judgement there.  I don't love tattoos.  And, honestly, when he got himself kicked out of the hockey game only five seconds into his first appearance on the ice, we figured the whole thing had been one big publicity stunt.  In fact, for a while, Sk8terdad and I didn't really believe his arm had actually been broken in the fight.

Mike, I owe you an apology.  (Oops - guess I should have said that in person tonight.  Now I owe you TWO.)

First, he was under no obligation to invite us up for a photo in between periods.  There was an already-announced plan for autographs AFTER the game.  But I knew Sk8terdude would never be able to keep his eyes open that late AND wait in line, etc., so I tweeted in hopes of skipping the lines and making an early exit, and Mike V graciously obliged.

Second, Mike V not only posed for photos, he was incredibly generous with his time.  Sk8terdude was a little shy, and afraid to ask a question at first, but finally he launched into a conversation.  Mike V answered the first question and then another, and then some of mine, and he shared with us that he plans to return next season to play - as soon as his arm is completely healed.  He and Sk8terdude swapped broken bone stories.  (I definitely don't want Sk8terdude trying to match Vallely's 16 breaks...)  And although there were a few other people waiting, Mike V didn't rush us.

He was warm and encouraging of his eager young fan.  Sk8terdude will surely remember this evening for the rest of his life.

Thank you, Mike, for an incredible memory.

(Sk8terdad adds:  And, by the way, Danbury won in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead.  Go Whalers!)

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