I spent a summer/fall working for the WHL's most storied franchise, the Kamloops Blazers. When I was a kid in high school, they called it the Montreal of the WHL because the team had been so good for so long. When I worked there, they were more like the Montreal of 1998. I'm saying they were bad. It was a very eventful summer. I spent most of my time watching training camp. I was impressed by Devan Dubnyk's intelligence and height, Ray Macias' speed (and his hot mom), and Eric Christensen's ability to be a complete butthole to everyone around him.
It was a very eventful time for the Blazers. It was the year the story broke about a front office person being caught embezzling funds from the team. This website has a great recap of it, and Drinnan is just great in general, so read his story. So, that happened, I got to travel with the team a bit, it was just a whole lot of good memories all wrapped up into one.
But what I'll remember the most was Rob Skrlac. I got to work at the alumni golf tournament with real stars - Mark Recchi was there, Shane Doan was there. I showed up to work around oh, let's say 8 to man the registration table. The tourney was supposed to start at 10. The first guy up? Robby Skrlac. This guy was the enforcer during the glory days of Iginla-Doan-Regehr-etc. He was massive. He was also super early.
"Hey, I'm here to golf."
"Uh, Rob, you're two hours early."
"Well, I had nothing to do."
"Well, you can't start yet."
"OK, I guess I'll go sleep more."
And he went to his Honda Accord and had a nap.
He showed up at 10, on the dot,saying the same thing. "Hey, I'm here to golf." Yeah Rob, I know. I followed his career closely because when you meet a guy who is known for pounding heads in and he doesn't pound your head in you are now friends. He had been toiling in the Devils farm system for a few years by this point.
The next season he got called up for an eight game stint. He even scored a goal. I still have the clipping on my fridge. His quote was:
"I was just standing in front, trying to fight Garnet (Exelby) and I guess it hit me."
Guys like this are what hockey's about to me. I'm a grumpy old dad. Give me 20 Skrlac-type success stories a year and shove your corsi up your butt. The end.
* Likely 100% false