I don’t think I do a lot of complaining about my life here on the blog, but if I ever do, remind of the night of Feb. 8, 2019 and tell me to shut up.
Friday night… man, was it magical.
They say you should never meet your childhood heroes in real life, because they’re bound to disappoint you. I don’t know about that, because a few of my heroes that I’ve been lucky enough to meet (Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Bob Costas) have all turned out to be pretty cool.
But one hero I never, ever expected to meet is one of the greatest hockey players who ever lived. Guy by the name of Messier. First name Mark.
Played for the Edmonton Oilers, won five Stanley Cups, then came to New York and gave the single greatest sports memory I will ever have on June 14, 1994, when he and the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years.
And Friday night, the Captain and I spent about 30 glorious minutes together, on an evening that was incredible and memorable before I ever shook his hand.
A little background on how a night I’ll never forget came to be: So my wonderful wife has a work contact whose firm has a suite at Madison Square Garden, and around twice a year we are fortunate enough to spend a night at a Rangers game in the suite, with great food, a private bathroom (that’s huge at a hockey game!) and cool people.
Several months ago my wife told me our two games for this year, and at the time I had no idea that Feb. 8 vs. Carolina was going to be the 25th anniversary celebration of the 1994 Stanley Cup. When I found that out, I went from my normal level of excitement to a 10.
Seeing my favorite sports team of all time all dressed up and being honored was going to be awesome.
Then, I get to the suite about two hours before the game, and like usual I start introducing myself to the other people in the suite. Normally these are just other lawyers or bankers or whatever.
“Hi,” the first guy said. “I’m Paul Messier.”
“Hi,” the second guy said. “I’m Doug Messier.”
Wait, what? Mark Messier’s brother, and father, are sitting in this box with me? My excitement level went up seven or eight notches.
Then I found out that a few Rangers legends would be stopping by our suite during the game, including that “other” Messier guy.
I couldn’t call my wife and my father fast enough (she hadn’t arrived yet) to tell them that I might get to meet one of my all-time idols. This is a man whose name is part of some of my email passwords, a man who stood for everything (courage, tenacity, being clutch, being a good guy off the ice) that I believe in and worship in an athlete.
The pregame ceremony gave me chills. Then the game started. I half paid attention to the game, because I kept watching the door of the suite waiting for No. 11 to come in.
By the end of the second period, even though I’d had lots of fun chatting about hockey with Messier’s brother (and the poor guy, you just know that’s how everyone refers to him), I was getting worried. Maybe Mark wouldn’t show. Maybe he had too many other obligations on this special night.
Then, early in the third, he walked in. And of course for the rest of us in the box, time kind of stood still.
I bided my time. I waited a whole two minutes before walking over to where the great Mark Messier stood. I shook his hand, told him that I’m sure I’m the 48 millionth person to tell him this, but thank you for the 1994 Cup.
And he was great. We took some more pics with my wife and her co-workers, and then for about 10 glorious minutes, I sat one row in front of the greatest captain in hockey history and exchanged a few barbs. I made him laugh with one joke about how bad the current Rangers were playing, and a few minutes later we talked briefly about Sergei Zubov and how it’s a travesty he’s not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Then way too quickly, the game ended and it was time to leave. We thanked Mess again on our way out, and I walked into the night a few moments later wondering if all that all really happened.
They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. I met one Friday night. And it was so freaking awesome.
And just because we’re talking about Messier, here’s this, the greatest clutch performance a Rangers player has ever had.
**Next up today, a big story at the end of last week was Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and his stunningly honest and transparent letter accusing the National Enquirer of trying to extort him to not cover the Enquirer/Trump love-in, by threatening to release penis pics of Bezos.
Yes, this is America in 2019. Thankfully, we have “Saturday Night Live” to sort this all out. And as always, Kate McKinnon is gold.
**Finally today, Sunday night was the Grammys, and as usual this 43-year-old suburban white father of two didn’t know a lot of the musical acts that took the stage, or won awards (actual pre-Grammys conversation in our house: Post Malone, is that a boy, or a girl, or a group? And is there an alternative group called Pre-Malone?”)
But hey, as usual I enjoyed lots of the show, anyway. Some thoughts from my still stuck in the 1980s musically brain:
— The Dolly Parton tribute was fabulous. And I say this every time I hear her sing, but Miley Cyrus has an amazing voice. Truly an all-time great set of pipes. If I could just get past her crazy, I’d probably be a big fan of hers.
— I don’t usually like Lady Gaga’s outfits at all, but that shiny silver dress she wore at the beginning? Fantastic. And the glittery catsuit thingy she had on when singing her awesome song “Shallow?” Pretty fabulous too.
— That opening speaking segment with Michelle Obama, Gaga, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, and Jada Pinkett-Smith was pretty spectacular as well.
— Alicia Keys rules. She was a killer host, a great singer, and I loved her little montage. But this will still be the best thing she ever did.
— I want whatever anti-aging cream John Mayer uses. Dude still looks like he’s 16!
— Best performance by someone I’d never heard of until the Grammys: H-E-R. Very strong. But I swear I don’t get the appeal of half these artists. I’m old.