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.