February 28, 2001

Do It for the Love

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If ever you head north of the border to Canada, make sure that you go on a Saturday night. For Canadians, Saturday nights are sacred for one reason and one reason, and one reason only — it’s National Hockey Night in Canada.

So there I was last Saturday evening, sitting with friend and assistant sports editor Charles Persons at a sports bar in Prescott, Ontario, just trying to figure out where the hell we were.

We’d just crossed the bridge over the St. Lawrence River in Ogdensburg, still fuming at the fact that we had to pay two dollars in tolls just to get into Canada.

But lo and behold, the TV above me was tuned in to the CBC’s National Hockey Night in Canada, with Edmonton taking on Calgary.

Now, sure, the stereo system behind me might have been pounding out Shaggy hits by the minute, but watching hockey I felt about as Canadian as an Indian kid from New Jersey can feel, eh.

So, the guy sitting next to me leans over and asks me, “Do you like hockey?”

I’m thinking that he is really hammered. But of course, I humour him and say, “Sure.”

“Do you like the Ottawa Senators?” he continued.

“Yeah,” I responded, not knowing where he was going with this and not wanting to offend an Ottawa super-fan and end up getting in a bar brawl.

“I played for the Senators,” he quickly replied.

Incredulously stunned I simply glanced at him, shaking my head to show that I didn’t believe him. What were the chances that I would pick a seat next to a former professional hockey player? None, so obviously I didn’t believe him.

He has a ring on his left hand. He slips it off and puts it in my hand. I peek at it and I begin to feel like an ass.

Yes, the ring was from the Senators, and apparently this guy did indeed play for Ottawa. (Later he would fill me in on the fact that Alexi Yashin was a prick).

I still had absolutely no clue who this guy was. All I knew about him was that that he used to be a defenseman for the Senators. I didn’t know if he was any good. I didn’t know if he ever even got into a game. I didn’t even know what his name was.

But still I was impressed. Not because he was a superstar and made an unfathomable salary. What really struck me about him was —