Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mike Vallely and the Danbury Whalers Do-Over

Last year I wrote (here and here) about meeting Mike Vallely and about his efforts to become a professional hockey player - if only briefly.  You may recall that his first official trip onto the ice lasted less than a minute and ended with a broken arm and a long recovery.
This weekend Mike V. was back in uniform for the Danbury Whalers, hoping for a second chance to live out his dream, and Sk8terdude was rinkside, hoping to meet him for the second time.

In the beginning, I questioned whether Mike V. was really determined to play hockey or whether this was just a publicity stunt cooked up between him and Whalers' owner Herm Sorcher.  And after last year I decided it was a little bit of both.

This year my take is this:  it doesn't really matter.

Mike V. loves hockey.  He wishes he had been good enough to play professionally when he was younger.  He's a canny businessman who knows how to take advantage of an opportunity (that's a compliment!).  And he wasn't about to let this one pass him by.  With his new Elephant Brand Skateboards ready to launch, Mike V. came to Connecticut with a two-fold mission:  to play professional hockey for more than a minute and to continue his quest to have a successful skateboard line.

On Friday evening, with the Whalers in a close game against the Thousand Islands Privateers, he was limited to one 29-second shift in the final period of the game, which the Whalers won 5-3.  Afterwards, Mike V. was overheard saying that the important thing was the team win.  That's a classy remark from a guy who likes to be in on the action and surely would have preferred not to spend most of the game on the bench.

On Saturday, with the Whalers way ahead in their game against the Danville Dashers, Mike V. saw some legitimate ice time:  two or three full shifts plus the final 35 seconds of the game.  The Whalers won 5-1, making them undefeated with Mike V. in the line-up:  two wins this weekend plus the one last year.

Both nights he stayed after the game, greeting fans, including Sk8terdude on Friday and OlderBrother on Saturday, and signing autographs on everything from Whalers memorabilia to skateboards.

Both Mike V. and Sk8terdude ended the weekend with dreams fulfilled.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tampa Countdown

We are counting down the days to our next skateboarding road trip.  In just a little more than one month Sk8terdude and I will fly to Florida for a few days at SkatePark of Tampa (SPoT).

I've started my end of the research (hotels, car rental, other things to do, and the nearest Starbucks).

Since SPoT doesn't open before noon during our visit, I'm hoping for a few non-skating activities, too.

Florida Aquarium, Big Cat Rescue, and the manatee viewing platform at the power plant all sound like fun.  Any Tampa readers out there with advice?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Taking Care of Customers (and their parents) should be Second Nature

Saturday is skate day for Sk8terdude, at least whenever possible.  Today we are back at 2nd Nature which is now our "local" indoor skatepark, thanks to the demise of both Vertigo and Haven Skateparks in Connecticut.

By "local" I mean a delightful 50 minute drive if there's no traffic - not exactly a convenient "drop and go" location for me - so once I again I am hunkered down in the parent lounge.  I'm thankful for the small things they heat!  A big improvement over my recent sojourn to New Jersey, which I blogged about last week.

In addition to the heat (admittedly, it's close to 60 degrees outside - a rare January experience indeed - so maybe the heat isn't that critical), they also had the good sense to take care of parents with this lovely little setup:  a microwave, a keurig, and a selection of herbal teas and coffee.

Now if these guys managed to get it together long enough to think about the comfort and convenience of the parents (and maybe even the employees?), could it be that difficult for other skateparks to do the same?

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  It's good business to take care of the parents who drive the kids to the park and pay for the sessions (and the merchandise).  Seriously.