Surreal scene here in North Bay, Ontario for the Kraft "Hockeyville" game against the Thrashers.
The arena is about the size of one of those New York City gyms where MSG televises high school hoops. A few thousand people filling not just every seat but literally every corner of the building. Among those in the house are Gary Bettman (standing 5 feet behind me, entertaining the press), Patrick Flatley (still bragging about the "Heals and Flats Show") and Jiggs McDonald (a little nervous again, now that Howie's Mets got swept again by the Phillies).
It's a privilege to be here. I'm standing on a perch that hangs over the ice and you can hear every hit (my guy Labelle broke the glass with a Thrasher), every word exchanged between opponents. Chris Simon is playing tonight like a man who missed the game oh so much.
Ted Nolan and John Chabot were big hits with the media before the game. Turns out a bit of history is being made because there's never been two First Nations coaches behind the same bench at an NHL game before. Ted never ceases to amaze me. We got here three hours before the game and he finds the time for everybody and treats everyone with class.
Turns out Josef Vasicek is very close to a family from the Soo from his junior days. He's been sort of a big brother to two of their children, both suffering from muscular dystrophy. JoVa made the effort to arrange tix for tonight's game and asked teammates such as Drew Fata (from the Soo) and Ted to stop by and visit. Didn't know Josef much before today. Now I know a lot about him.