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A Typhoid Mary kind of day

I have a cold or sinusitis or a persistent allergy turned into something… I don’t know.  I have the sniffles and sneezes and cough.  Yesterday morning I felt a lot better and decided I could drag myself to Sharks practice and then the press conference for Owen Nolan’s retirement announcement.  I have been so wanting to go to a Sharks press conference.  I am such a geek, I love the rows of chairs and little stage and everyone in their places.  It reminds me of school.  It would have been perfect if in fact I were as healthy as I thought I was, and not all fuzzy-headed from cold meds.

I wonder what it’s like, doing one thing professionally for so many years, working from the time you’re a child until you’re too old to do it anymore, working at the same thing.  They say that retiring can kill a man.  I think they mean men of advanced age, not someone under 50.  Evidently women don’t tend to die from big life changes.  But it’s still a shock, change always is.

I wonder if it is that different from doing things not professionally all your life.  Like writing, or riding, or playing music.  No one will give you a retirement ceremony if you quit doing something you did for no pay, even if you did it for 50 years.  No one will hold you to it if you say you’re quitting, they’ll figure you’re sick of it or that you’ll pick it back up again later.  Some things we do can be vital to our identity and never be recognized as something you might retire from.  So things we do that are part of our sense of self can be different from work that is part of our public identity.

During practice, the Sharks did a little drill I hadn’t seen before.  It was a simple thing, everyone carrying a puck around the rink and then changing direction on the cue of a whistle.  It reminded me of a flock of birds changing course.  Even though I could hear the whistle, the synchronicity of it was still marvelous.  I can’t think of any other team sport that has such beautiful exercises, no sport not involving horses anyway.

I think about it, for a while.  All right, there may be a lot of other beautiful sports, but I don’t care about those.

The team’s energy was good, a lot of whooping sounds, not only from Brent Burns.  The coach had a lot to say, commenting and pointing after every whistle, the players nodding and understanding before doing it again.

Most people don’t have the option to retire so young as Nolan (39 for a few more days).  I’m sure it’s better than facing the change later when you are less vigorous.  He has time to start a new profession for heaven’s sake… and even retire again.

Maybe retiring from pro hockey is more like graduation: end and beginning in one.  Retirement hasn’t quite gotten there yet, no matter what the investment firm ads tell you.  We still think of golf carts and bridge tables littered with doilies and petit-fours, or cruises, endless cruises and trips on buses.  That isn’t very accurate either, most of us don’t get all that and many won’t get to retire in any meaningful way at all.

But graduation?  That’s something most of us have been through at least once.  No matter how many streamers they throw, it’s still scary.  Maybe not knowing what comes next, or not understanding why this moment is so important, or not knowing what you are supposed to do in the morning anymore.  It’s all weird, unfamiliar.

In any case, we say “yay! That’s over!” instead of “oh crap, now what?”

I was relieved to be able to park easily at HP.  As I rounded the front of the building, I saw McLellan going through the main entrance.  I followed, after pulling on four different door handles before finding the unlocked one (the one the coach used, ahem…).  It’s important to mention that they are glass doors, so someone can watch you go along being stupid.  Said person was wearing a blue blazer and he looked apprehensive, so I knew he was hoping I wouldn’t try to run past him.  I asked which entrance we were supposed to use.  He told me, not that one, pointed me the other way.

I had a plan which became a habit of keeping a blazer and alternate top in my car in case I needed it, in case what I was wearing ever mattered again.  I broke that habit about a week ago, just in time to find myself grossly under-dressed for the press conference.  I wasn’t wearing a hoodie or anything but I did look raggedy.  I hadn’t even thought about it, it was so hard to get up and showered and dressed at all through the sickly haze of this sniffles thing.

Well, that has to happen at least once, right?  You have to show up dressed wrong, it’s like a rite of passage.

Of course when I got through the right door a fellow asked if my name was on his list.  I was sure it would not be.  I am most definitely an unlisted sort of person.  He had to call, let me sweat for a bit about whether I was allowed to be there, whether he was reporting on how I was dressed and deciding my fate.

I could not get satisfactory instructions on where to sit or stand.  I was told to sit in the second row where they had sheets of paper on the seats that said “Media.” That would not do, not looking like a homeless person and sneezing and coughing all over.  While I was trying to decide where to stand, since the unmarked seats in the back had not been identified as options for me, I was strangely unsurprised to see Jarome Iginla.  He was making his way through the crowd, shaking hands and leaning over to talk to children.  I didn’t understand why he was there, I just figured I was seeing white rabbits or something.

Wow but my tolerance for drugs and alcohol has really gone in the toilet.

I did eventually put it together, the Flames being in town, Nolan having been a Flame, Iginla being Flames captain… but for a moment, just white bunnies.

I found a place in the far corner, standing behind the seats with a nice booth barrier/plant holder to put my notebook on.  I made sure I was out of the way of everything with room behind me to go around the corner and blow my nose if need be.  I feel all safe here… wait, wtf are those cameras doing pointing in THIS direction?  The stage is over there, the other way!  Demmit, it would draw attention to run away.  Oh hell.  I’ll never be able to watch this thing online.

Dan Rusanowski gave a nice introduction to the ceremonies.  His use of “we” and “us” highlighted the strange relationship between the Sharks and their broadcast outlets.  I know, about half of the guys we see and hear are paid by the Sharks, and I really don’t have a problem with that.  It would be really hard to expect your average local sports news outlet to find someone who knows anything about hockey.  It’s just strange to have them be part of the mainstream media.

Wilson’s speech was good, it covered all the main points.  He’s a good speaker.  Nolan didn’t seem to be listening.  He might have been but his face didn’t show much reaction to any of it.  I wondered if he was here or somewhere else.

Do a lot of graduates cry at graduation, or is that only the parents/spouses etc?  I can’t remember.  I didn’t, I was just trying not to cough or sneeze, trying to keep my eyes averted from bright lights shielding the audience from view.  I never did really “get” the graduation thing, why it was so momentous.  I guess I’m too quick to move on to the next terrifying step.

Nolan spoke, he got choked up, so did I.  I may have been stoned out of my mind but my empathy gauge was working just fine.    I realized it’s a good good thing I wasn’t in the media row, right behind Nolan’s family who, I learned later, were crying.

Another close call there.

Nolan ended with a couple of funny anecdotes about teeth and stitches, about having all of the former and lots more of the latter.  His speech was short and sweet.  Bryan Marchment called in with congratulations, then Nolan’s agent Mike Barnett… I scurried away to hide a sneeze and got back in time to hear the call from a Canadian journalist who asked Nolan if he knows he’s the last of the Nordiques to retire.  I think Nolan said he didn’t know that.

That is an awesome bit of trivia to my clouded brain.

That brain is still clouded right now so I’m going to give up trying to make my tenses consistent.  Apologies.

I realize I’m seeing tv made, or made for internet tv or something.  Probably bits and pieces will show up on NHL Live and other sportscasts.  That is cool.

Thornton and Marleau present Nolan with a jersey in the new Sharks’ colors.  It has a captain’s C on it.

Geez, if I knew this would be the best photo I'd be able to find, I would've used my phone.

David Pollak is the only journalist from the floor to ask any questions.  He asks a second when no one else offers.  If this weren’t on tv I would have come up with something to ask. It is so awful when no one asks questions.  Bad media guys, bad slacker media.

Except for Pollak. Of course except for him.

I think there will be food and shmoozing available but adding my usual social anxiety to my impaired mental function, I decide I should go before I have a chance to breathe on anyone’s food.  That’s when I realize I may actually be sick.  I see a door nearby but there are fans outside.  I can’t use that door, what if they try to get in?  I can’t deal with that so I scamper past the food tables to the main exit.

What if I am contagious?  Good thing I didn’t sit in that second row.  Good thing I didn’t go around shaking hands and stuff… uh oh.  I did shake hands with a couple of guys at the front door.   What if they go around shaking hands?  And I touched door knobs!  I used the restroom, touched sinks and paper towel dispensers and more doors… oh my god.  I have killed the Sharks.  Scenes from Outbreak stretch out in front of me.  I have killed the Calgary Flames.  James Sheppard!  You poor boy, why did you you have to come today?  You might have escaped…

Wait, right… not dead.  Just sick.  So maybe I killed the Sharks’ playoff hopes.  And the Flames’… well, is Calgary really expecting to make it anyway?  I still feel badly.  I just wanted to see a press conference.

I am sure Typhoid Mary didn’t mean it.  She was just confused by the fever in her brain.

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