Avalanche Storytime: Out of Your Mind …

Hope everyone is fine. I hope everyone has been in a better mood than I have been lately. I’d say after a month of shelter, I’ve been mentally bumping into a few speed bumps lately. Just wasn’t in the best of moods. But enough whining from me. I thought I was going to get some time out of my head here with some avalanche stories from the past few years, with some things that can’t be found in any book I’ve already written or anything. Or maybe there are a few and I forgot. So, let’s have some avalanche storytime, the vignette version:

  • I still think back a lot – well, maybe not much, but sometimes anyway – when the Avs were in Sweden for training camp on September 11th, along with some exhibition games against Swedish and Finnish teams. In a way, it was my first on-site experience as we were all locked in the same hotel for days after the attack. Well, we could go to restaurants in Stockholm, but we couldn’t do what we all wanted most, which is to come home after that terrible day. One evening my wife and I went out for dinner in Stockholm. When we got to the hotel, ex-Avs player Eric Lacroix – now the team’s video coach – and someone else from management were sitting in our elevator back to the rooms. We made courtesies, talked about where we were going and what we had for dinner. Eric told us he had a new starter called “Sweetbread” and said how much he liked it. We told him what sweetbreads was – roasted cow brain – and he suddenly looked like he was about to throw up.
  • Do you remember Norm Jones? Of course you do. He was the Avs color man for many years, and before that he was the voice of the old Colorado Rockies, not to mention DU hockey and other things. (I spoke to Norm recently and he is fine). Anyway, Norm didn’t mess around when it came to his food. He liked good food and good restaurants and was not cheating on himself at the table. One night in Boston, Norm ate about 75 oysters at the Union Oyster House in some sort of test of courage from other Avs employees around him. That’s a lot of oysters.
  • Not as many as a man named Hayne Ellis ate one night, though. Ellis is a former PR guy with the Avs. One night in Boston he ate 120 oysters to top Jones. There are witnesses.
  • Speaking of guys who like to eat: do you remember Marcel Aubut? If not, he was the last owner of the Quebec Nordiques, the guy who was forced to sell to the Denver people and see the team move. It wasn’t Aubut’s fault, he had no choice. Anyway, Marcel was a big guy who also liked his food. And even he would laugh at it. He was just a big man with a big appetite, so what? Once, while looking through a menu in a restaurant, Aubut couldn’t decide what to start with. Everything looked pretty good so he couldn’t narrow it down to one or two. So he said to the waiter, “bring me everything on the menu” and they did.
  • In the first avalanche season when I occasionally drove planes with the team? We almost had a plane crash in 1995. It was the beginning of the season and we were on our way to Uniondale, NY, for a game with the Islanders. As we were descending to the runway of a private, small airport, the plane suddenly bounced back into the air. It turned out that another plane was taking off from the same runway and was heading straight for us for a few seconds. Everything went well, of course, but I remember the pilot was pretty pissed off when we landed. The avalanche storytime could have ended very early that day.
  • Rob Blake was a lot – elite defender, super nice guy. It was also the best razor I’ve ever seen. Blake couldn’t stand a mustache or a beard – not even in the playoffs – and even after the games, if he had a few hours of stubble, he had to be clean shaven. After every single game, Blake could be seen with a face full of shaving cream looking in a mirror, but it was amazing how fast it went off his razor. He would shave his entire face in six or seven quick, surgical strokes. He wiped off any remaining cream and then patted his face like “Ahhh”.
  • Dean McAmmond had this little ritual with his skates, it’s hard to describe, but basically, he couldn’t leave the locker room until his two skates were perfectly balanced and stood upright next to his locker. Only when he thought it was perfectly balanced, in whatever form, would he hang it up and retreat to the back room.
  • Former Avs-D man Cory Sarich also had a series of rituals after each game. One of them was that he used some kind of gelatin ring, which he always carefully put back in a clear glass case. I still don’t know what that thing was, but you could see him playing around with it after every game.
  • The only time I think I’ve seen two Avalanche players in the locker room who were close to beating each other was between Adam Foote and Scott Hannan. Any argument on the ice was broadcast into the room and they really barked at each other for a few seconds while we were all the media clubs in the room. I think it spread quickly.
  • I wrote about it then, but most have no doubt forgotten: did you know that Avs player Rene Corbet won $ 50,000 in a lottery in Quebec in 1997? He used it to buy a house for his parents.
  • In the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals, Avs-GM Pierre Lacroix invited the Denver media to a Florida restaurant through PR man Jean Martineau, the night before Game 3, I believe. As a gag, the Lacroix restaurant brought a silver platter with a over it , as a surprise dessert or something. Turns out it was one of those plastic rats that Panthers fans threw on the ice after goals this year. Without missing a blow, Lacroix took the bottom of one of the salt shakers, poured it all over the rat, and said, “Sir, your rat is in danger of being buried by an avalanche.”
  • Once, while hanging around in Patrick Roy’s locker, the subject of the first goalkeeper to wear a mask – the great Jacques Plante – came up. Roy knew Plante as a young player who came to Montreal. I asked Roy something like, “Have you spoken to Jacques lately?” No, no, Roy said, because he died in 1986. Oops.
  • If any of you have good avalanche storytime things that you want to share, the comments are certainly open. We all have our own avalanche storytimes somewhere.

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