Ima tell all y’all a little story. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s mine.
Late one night, many years ago when the RBC Center was known as the ESA and the Hurricanes hadn’t yet won more than one playoff round, I and a couple ladies that worked for Adam and Eve were hanging out in back of the RBC Center, waiting for all the players to roll out after a game. I don’t even remember who we were playing–I think it was the Islanders of all teams–and I don’t even remember their names, but I remember this.
It was late (like midnight), it was nippy and a little breezy and a tad damp, but because one of the women had a shirt that she wanted to have signed by all the players, I agreed to wait with her and her friend. One by one, the players came out and I told my two compatriots who each player was and what number he was. And the shirt got signed one player at a time.
Finally this big green Explorer comes rolling out and stops, and the window rolls down. Behind the wheel was a rookie whose English was kinda fair to middlin’ (more middlin’ than fair, really), but he was more than happy to sign the shirt.
“Can you write “She froze her ass off for you” on it?” the lady with the shirt asked. “It’s for my husband, and I want him to know what I went through to get this done for him.
“Sure,” the rookie said. And he wrote it as best he could–but since his English was more middlin’ than fair, it came out as SE FROZ OF AESE. We all thought it was hilarious at the time, and it’s still quite funny and brings a smile to my face.
That rookie was Josef Vasicek–better known in these parts as Joe, Lord of Evil–and he died in a plane crash this morning (US time) along with all but one of his KHL teammates. Of all the fan-moments I remember involving the Lord of Evil, the Night of the Frozen-Ass T-Shirt is the one that makes me smile most.
Rest well in the halls of your ancestors, Joe. Thanks for the memories.
Yes, it’s true, I am ramping up for hockey season and am now free of the corporate fetters that prevented me from blogging.
Not that y’all missed me much–I admit, I lost a lot of what little punch I had after 2006 and before the Great Hiatus. But I’m still me, I’m still opinionated, and I’m going to give ‘er another go.
I want to talk today about Chopper Harrison. Lots of electrons have been spilled over the tragic deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak–may their ancestors welcome them all warmly into their halls.
But nobody really talks about superfans like Chopper. Chopper died on 23 August at his home, after a battle with cancer. He was a year older than my husband, which did kinda hit home for me.
Chopper was annoying as hell. He drove everyone up the wall with his antics and blind homerism (the Warchief even called him on it after one particularly bad game, when Chopper said “yeah you guys played great last night!” and the Warchief said “What are you talking about? We played like crap!”), and after one incident where he said “asses” while doing an intermission whatchamadingding (during the 2001-2002 home opener), Great Leader banned him from doing any more on-ice stuff for the team. Of course, that ban lasted about as long as Dan Blackburn’s career, and Chopper was back on the ice about halfway through the season with his trademark “OVER HEEEEERRRRRRREEEEE!” and “THEY CAN HEAR YOU IN THE LOCKER ROOM!” bellowing. He was a hard drinker, a hard partier, scuttlebutt had the team telling Bates Battaglia and Shane Willis to stay the hell away from him, and eventually his antics drove the team away from him. He became the butt of jokes on message boards like thescoreboards.com and on blogs and among the folks at the RBC Center. I found myself apologizing on behalf of North Dakota for him on more than one occasion–as if my own famn damily didn’t make me ashamed enough to be from that state.
But there was no denying one thing: He was a Caniac through and through. He loved this team like he never loved anything else in his entire life–it was obvious to everyone with half a braincell. He braved Acrophobia for this team, by getting up on the canopy above the RBC Center’s box office as part of a season-ticket drive. For an acrophobe, that is a huge step. He stood up for them when few people in this state would, and was unceasing in his evangelizing of hockey and the Hurricanes to the college ball-watching masses.
Even after players eventually stopped talking to him and the org deliberately forgot he existed and Curtis Media Group fired him after a DUI arrest in 2006, he still loved the Hurricanes with his heart and soul and every last breath in his body–and when it was time for him to fight his final battle, he didn’t go back to Fargo, where he grew up and played hockey for the Spartans of North High. He came home to Raleigh, to be near his favourite team. David Martin, known to so many as Chopper Harrison, was, for all his many flaws, One Of Us–The Few, The Proud, The Caniacs–and the Caniac Nation (est. 1997) is greatly lessened by his passing.
Rest well, David Martin. May your ancestors welcome you warmly and may you enjoy a premium ice-side seat at the Eternal Game.
10 years ago yesterday, I got in to my job in one of the function-test labs at IBM. I had sat down and was getting ready to go grab a drink before settling in to writing down some thoughts about the playoff series that had just ended for the ‘Canes, when one of my co-workers came over and said “Did you hear the news?”
No, I said. What happened?
“Steve Chiasson died last night.”
I sat there gobsmacked. WHAT?!
“Yeah”, she said. “Go read The Penalty Box.”
I went and pulled up the board (at that time the most highly-trafficked Canes board on the Net)–first thing I saw was “Chiasson dead in single-vehicle accident”.
On our lunch break, my co-worker and I tried to find a place near IBM that was showing the press conference–no luck. So we had to settle for posts from other TPB readers filling us in on the presser and what was said, and what little was printed by the N&O about the accident and what was being discussed on 850 the Buzz–then the only sports radio station in town.
Mike Solarte was in tears on his morning show. He knew all the guys on the team, so to him it was like losing a member of the family. He was doing all he could to keep from breaking down sobbing on the air, and he even mentioned that alcohol may have been a factor. In the lab, the mode was very somber; all the other testers came around to offer their condolences. We were crushed and a little numb.
And we got to listen to Adam Gold blasting Chiasson as a worthless drunk because Chaser made the awful decision to duck his teammates (who were trying to call him a cab), steal his keys back, and drive home before anyone could stop him. Gold denies it now, but no ‘Canes fan who heard his nastiness back then (when the Buzz gave the Hurricanes short shrift and only Solarte spoke well of them on a regular basis) will forget it. Any fan that took issue with Gold’s remarks were insulted on-air and hung up on. Anyone that sent him an e-mail received a patronizing reply that amounted to “he deserved what he got”.
It was a nightmare; we were all angry that Chaser had decided to drive while intoxicated, but at the same time we were sad that he was gone and grateful that nobody else was hurt or injured. There are still some that refuse to hear anything good about Steve Chiasson, and continue to deride his memory and cry about the Hurricanes’ Steve Chiasson Award as somehow “glorifying” irresponsible behaviour; the rest of us–and the Hurricanes–choose to remember the whole man and honour his memory while reminding others of the final lessons Steve taught us:
Whether you are celebrating or drowning your sorrows, be responsible: take a cab or have a designated driver, and always wear your seat belt.
Hail, Steve. We miss you.
The exact circs, we don’t know about. According to what’s been released so far, Luc collided with a transport truck. Vancouver blogger Darren Barefoot had a commenter post that there were winds and a tragic wardrobe malfunction involved, but that report is of course being treated by this blogger as highly unsubstantiated.
Just a freakin’ tragedy.
And for all the sympathy and condolences, there of course always has to be one fuckhead in the crowd comparing it in a sidelong manner to (in this case) Dany Heatley’s accident even though there is nothing at all yet released to suggest that alcohol, drugs, or even simple recklessness was involved. Good job sport, you get the Asshat of the Week Award. Hope you’re happy with yourself.
My sincerest condolences to the Bourdon family and the Vancouver Canucks. May Luc be dining tonight with his honoured ancestors.