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The Day I (Almost) Killed Two Gretzkys

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The Day I (Almost) Killed Two Gretzkys

  The Day I (Almost) Killed Two Gretzkys

  …And Other Off-the-Wall Stories About Sports…and Life

  James Duthie



  Title Page




  Chapter 1: It's All About the Snack, Baby!

  Chapter 2: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Sid the Kid

  Chapter 3: The Final Toll

  Chapter 4: The Loneliest Guy in the Rink

  Chapter 5: Canada Days

  Chapter 6: Paulina and Me

  Chapter 7: The Day I (Almost) Killed Two Gretzkys

  Chapter 8: Hell (Goalie) Week

  Chapter 9: You Wanna Piece of Me!?!

  Chapter 10: Growing Up in Section G

  Chapter 11: Taking Out the Trash

  Chapter 12: The Terror Beneath

  Chapter 13: Middle Standings Syndrome

  Chapter 14: Control Freak

  Chapter 15: Ovechkin: The Rock Star

  Chapter 16: Who Needs Golf Lessons?

  Chapter 17: Chelios Still Playing? How? Howe!

  Chapter 18: My Sports Sabbatical

  Chapter 19: Please Release Me

  Chapter 20: No Doubting Thomas

  Chapter 21: Rise of the Raven

  Chapter 22: Rival Eternal

  Chapter 23: The Longest Season

  Chapter 24: Hockey's Great Recession

  Chapter 25: Big Fish on the Frozen Pond

  Chapter 26: Torture Tunnel

  Chapter 27: Patrick Roy's Ride

  Chapter 28: The Boys of Summer

  Chapter 29: Pre-Game Peril

  Chapter 30: The Brady Interview

  Chapter 31: The Real Hockeytown

  Chapter 32: No Shame in a Strange Name

  Chapter 33: The Jeter Meter

  Chapter 34: Remembering Wheels

  Chapter 35: Remembering Wheels, Part 2

  Chapter 36: Hockey's First YouTube Legend

  Chapter 37: Career Options

  Chapter 38: Just (Don't) Do It!

  Chapter 39: The Big Hurt

  Chapter 40: Mats, Please Put Us Out of Our Misery

  Chapter 41: Au Revoir Expos

  Chapter 42: Kerry Fraser's Hair Scare

  Chapter 43: TV Ecstasy

  Chapter 44: Golden Sunday

  Chapter 45: Collateral Damage

  Chapter 46: Half Goaltender, Half Zoolander

  Chapter 47: How Canada Can Bounce Back

  Chapter 48: Mr. Kilrea's Opus

  Chapter 49: The Boy from the Hood

  Chapter 50: The Politics of Puck

  Chapter 51: The Habs' Season of Ceremony

  Chapter 52: Premature Evaluation: An Embarrassing Male (and Female) Problem

  Chapter 53: Magic Karpet Rides

  Chapter 54: The Monkey Prophecies

  Chapter 55: Duchene and Hodgson: Boyhood Pals Now a World Apart

  Chapter 56: The Gift of Girls

  Chapter 57: What They Really Mean

  Chapter 58: Ottawa's Fatal Flaw

  Chapter 59: Jungle Love

  Chapter 60: Jungle Love, Part 2

  Chapter 61: NHL Standings Should Be Pointless

  Chapter 62: Mountain View

  Chapter 63: Geno Comes Out of the Shadows

  Chapter 64: Go Rat-Horse Go!

  Chapter 65: Why'd You Diss Hockey, Tiger?

  Chapter 66: Survey Says!

  Chapter 67: Total (Lack of) Recall

  Chapter 68: Aaron Freaking Ward

  Chapter 69: Bah Humpuck!

  Chapter 70: Getting a Bad Rep

  Chapter 71: Bye-Bye SI

  Chapter 72: The Right Duff

  Chapter 73: A Break from Bertuzzi

  Chapter 74: Anna and Me: A Love Story

  Chapter 75: This Dog's Life

  Chapter 76: The Schools of Robs

  Chapter 77: The Legend of the Albino Torpedo

  Chapter 78: Crosby and Cooke: The Story of a Season

  Chapter 79: The Vacation Diaries


  About the Publisher

  To Cheryl, Jared, Darian, and Gracie

  for your love and inspiration


  By Roberto Luongo

  The first time I met James Duthie, he had me run over by a Zamboni.

  I was playing in Florida with the Panthers, and James and his TSN crew came down to do a story on the relationship between my back-up goalie, Jamie McLennan, and me.

  It sounded like your typical feel-good story. I figured he'd probably ask me the same kind of fluffy questions we always get with features like that. You know, “How do you and Jamie help each other improve? Do you hang out together off the ice? Is it like a brotherly relationship?” Everyone loves those warm-and-fuzzy hockey stories.

  Now, I knew James from TV, but I didn't know him personally at all. So he strolls into our dressing room that day, and says, “Nice to meet you, Roberto. Here's my idea for this story. We'll shoot all these funny scenes of Jamie acting like he's your slave—tying your skates, buying your groceries, spoon-feeding you dinner—but secretly, he'll be fantasizing about murdering you so that he gets to play more. And at the end, we'll do a dream sequence where he runs over you with a Zamboni and crushes you.”

  O. . . Kay.

  Actually, I kind of liked it. Sure beats the “How did you feel out there tonight?” interviews we have to do after every game. Plus, I can act. Luongo doesn't rhyme with De Niro by accident. So we shot all these scenes in and around the dressing room, and then at the end of practice, he pulls out this life-sized dummy they bought from some movie company. They had it dressed in full Panthers equipment. It did look kind of like me, though the hair wasn't nearly as good.

  So Jamie was riding the Zamboni, wearing this mock-evil grin. I did all the close-up shots of my face, looking terrified as the Zamboni approached (I nailed it). And then Jamie rode the Zamboni down the ice, and ran over the dummy.

  I think the story is still on YouTube somewhere. It was hilarious.

  A couple of years later, after I had been traded to Vancouver, James and I did a sequel, where I was having flashbacks of the Zamboni-crushing. It was more brilliant acting and special effects. James kept squirting water on my face to make me look like I was sweating, and I would roll my eyes back in my head like I was having some sort of seizure. Once again, Oscar-worthy stuff. Or at least a Golden Globe.

  The point of all this is that Duthie is demented. He is a sick, twisted individual. And I like that.

  I have always gotten along well with the media, and I try to answer all the questions they ask. But sometimes you do get tired of the same old stories and columns every day. “Why are the Canucks winning?” “Why are the Canucks losing?”

  The media needs originals. James is one of those. His columns are just like that story we did in Florida: unique, funny, often twisted and an absolute blast to read.

  He really does have to get over the Kournikova obsession, though. It's not going to happen. Have you seen yourself in HD, dude?

  The only thing that bothers me about the book is that there aren't any columns in here about me. You think if a guy agrees to write the foreword for your book, you might have found something half-decent to say about him. But I couldn't find a word. Sure, Tim Thomas gets a whole column. Luongo? Not even a paragraph.

  And after all I've done for him. It hurts, frankly. Not as much as getting hit by the Zamboni, but it hurts.


  “So what's your book about, Daddy?”

  My six-year-old daughter Gracie asks me this as I'm slapping away at my keyboard, simultaneously editing tw
o columns: one about coaches who ask players to refrain from sex before games, the other a fictional interview with a monkey who predicts the outcome of Stanley Cup playoff series.

  I don't like my chances of nailing this answer.

  “Well, it's about a lot of things, Sweetie. It's about hockey, it's about other sports, it's about being a fan, being a Dad and. . . lots of silly stuff.”

  “Is there a princess in it?”

  “Uhh, no, Babe. No princess. Though I do mention Anna Kournikova a lot.”

  “What about a dragon, Daddy? Or zebras?” (She loves zebras.)

  “No, no dragons. But there are some scary things in the book. Like those jellyfish that attacked us in PEI. And the howler monkeys that wanted to eat Daddy in Costa Rica. Oh, and I mention Sarah Palin, too. She's terrifying.

  “As for zebras, Cupcake. Well, I do talk about referees. We sometimes call them zebras because of the stripes on their shirts.” (Lame, I know. But she's six, okay? I thought it was a cute tie-in.) She looks at me, puzzled. ”I don't get it, Daddy. If you're writing a book, what's the story about?”

  I'm starting to sweat now. She's relentless. Mike Wallace in pigtails.

  “Well. . . this book has a lot of stories, Gracie. It's kind of like that fable book Nana gave you. Except most of these are actually true. (OK, some of them.) The stories are about all sorts of cool things! Things Daddy has seen during his career as a sportscaster, things about sports that make Daddy mad, things that make Daddy laugh, stories about famous athletes Daddy has met. And some weird stuff Daddy just dreams up in his head.”

  “Is that Ovechkin guy in the book?” (Alexander Ovechkin is the only hockey player she knows, because her brother once got to play a video game against him, and didn't stop talking about it for, oh, nine months.)


  “Tiger Woods?”

  “Definitely. There are all kinds of interesting characters in the book, Pumkinface! Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Tom Brady, Tim Thomas, Derek Jeter, Sean Avery, Anna Kournikova (*that's two mentions already, the Vegas over-under for the entire book is 437), Ray Emery, Chris Chelios, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Roy. . .”

  “Miley Cyrus?”

  “Uhh. . . no. Oh, but Hilary Duff is in there!”

  “It would have been a better book if Miley Cyrus was in it.”

  And with that final editorial declaration, she bounces off to her room, likely to stage another apocalyptic war between her Playmobile people and her American Girl dolls. (I don't try to understand it.)

  Oh well. Truth is, whether you are six or 66, I can't really explain what this book is about. It is a decade's worth of whatever-happened-to-seep-into-my-brain that particular week. Many of the columns appeared on, some in The Ottawa Citizen and a few other newspapers, but there is also a bunch that no one has seen before. I had stored them away in my hard drive, thinking I might do a book someday (but deep down, figuring I was too lazy to ever get around to it. All hail the power of Red Bull!).

  Don't look for any meaning in the order of the columns. They are neither chronological, nor categorized. I always like books where the next page is nothing like the last.

  If there are any mistakes of fact in here, blame my assistants. Oh crap, I didn't have any. Then blame Google, my fact-checker of record. OK, blame me.

  I'd like to thank my bosses at TSN, and all the boys at, for always letting me write about whatever the heck I feel like writing about, even when it has little to do with sports.

  Thanks to my high school English teacher, Mrs. Scott, who was the one who told me to forget all the rules of proper grammar, and journalism, and to just write, “anyway I wanted, about anything I wanted.” And to tell anyone who told me otherwise to “Screw off!” Mrs. Scott ruled.

  Thanks to my beautiful family, for putting up with me writing at the oddest of times, and in the oddest of places— hockey rinks, dance classes, water parks (don't ask). And for letting me use so much of our private life in my writings. You guys will always be my greatest inspiration.

  Thanks to the athletes who, either by their amazing feats or their complete idiocy, provide endless fodder for a sports columnist.

  Thanks, in advance, for the Nobel Prize of Literature, which will undoubtedly be bestowed upon this book.

  And finally, thanks to Anna Kournikova*. Just because.

  (*That's three, and the book hasn't even started yet. I smell a restraining order.)

  Chapter 1

  It's all About the Snack, Baby!

  December 2004

  My son is facing the first heart-wrenching decision of his distinguished athletic career.

  OK, so he's five. Just play along.

  A scheduling conflict means he has hockey and soccer (indoor) at the same time Saturday morning. He must choose. Look, I know it ain't exactly Bo Jackson deciding between the Royals and the Raiders, but stay with me.

  When I presented him with the problem, he paused pensively, clearly weighing his options. I could only imagine the conflict inside his soul:

  “Do I don the armor of the rink warrior, feel the incredible surge of steel against ice and the pure primal joy of watching the black saucer come off my stick and press the mesh? Or do I choose the simple, beautiful game of foot on ball; the visceral thrill of bending one like Beckham past the helpless sprawling keeper?”

  After a long silence, he responded:

  “What are the snacks?”

  “Ah . . . Wha . . . What do you mean?”

  “Which one has the better snack?”


  Right. The Snack. The single greatest motivation of the child athlete. In the pros, it's all about The Ring. In tyke, it's all about The Snack.

  My boy could score a natural hat trick in the final minute to win the league championship, but if there's no Kool-Aid Jammer waiting in the dressing room, he will curl up in the fetal position and weep.

  I have seen kids play a full soccer game without getting past “fat-guy light-jogging” speed, then run a 4.2-forty across the field to snag a pack of Fuzzy Peach Maynards.

  During one hockey game last month, our team's parents realized mid-game that due to some snack schedule snafu. . . the dreaded “Snackfu”. . . no one had brought The Snack. This caused sheer panic and fear in the stands. We all envisioned a team revolt, which would undoubtedly end in tears, tantrums, and in all likelihood, parental bloodshed.

  Cameron (4): “Where's my f*&#!$'in Joooooooce-boxxxxx!?!”

  Dylan (5): “It was Jared's Daddy's turn! That [email protected]$&* screwed me out of a Rice Krispy Square! Get him!”

  Me (39): “Oh God! Please. . . No! Help Meeeeeeee!”

  Lord of the Freakin' Flies. With skates.

  A clearly terrified mother made a desperate run to Loblaws for those mini cheese and cracker thingys. She got back just in time. It was truly heroic.

  We never had snacks when I played sports as a kid. Oranges, baby. It was all about the oranges.

  I try to tell my kid that, and he looks at me like I'm a caveman.

  “You ate oranges for The Snack? Was that before or after you discovered fire?”

  My wife is a health nut. She wanted to do that Norma Rae thing, you know, make a snack stand. When it was our turn for The Snack at soccer, she wanted to bring bottled water, and apples or carrots or broccoli or. . . something sadistic like that.

  My son was ready to walk right there. He was out of the family. He was prepared to put his face on the milk carton. Dude, your parents bring vegetables for The Snack? You are done. Your joyful boyhood is over. You won't see the puck/ball all season. It's a lifetime of atomic wedgies.

  One Dad brought full-size ice-cream bars and Bibo Juice for The Snack (Bibo is very big. It's the Red Bull of the JK-SK crowd.). He was God. He had 11 kids ready to do anything he asked. This must be how cults get formed.

  In the end, my kid chose soccer this weekend. Hockey is just a practice, and there is no guarantee of The Snack after practice (which he and a group of fri
ends are actively lobbying to change). He figures soccer is a sure thing.

  But just in case, he wants me to bring The Backup Snack. He developed the concept of The Backup Snack after that near miss at soccer last summer. It's a safety in case the designated snack parent fails to show.

  The kid is good. It's only a matter of time before he has a Snack Agent.

  “Look, he gets the chocolate-covered oatmeal bar or he doesn't dress, got it? He doesn't do plain or marshmallow!”

  • • •

  Postscript: He's in Peewee now and they've banned the snack, though they still have it in soccer occasionally. We brought Freezies recently and I forgot to put ice in the cooler. They melted. He almost filed for emancipation on the spot.

  Chapter 2

  10 Things you Didn't Know About Sid the Kid

  June 2008

  Detroit is leading Pittsburgh 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final.

  • • •

  Oh, no. Not another Sidney Crosby column. Enough already! Seriously, what is there left to say about the kid who has had more written about him than Obama and Brangelina combined? He is on the cover of The Hockey News every second week. They've written about him in GQ, People, Men's Fitness and every major sports magazine on the planet, outside of Cricket Weekly. A Google News search turned up 12,805 stories on Crosby in the past week.

  But wait. How can you not write about the central figure in hockey's biggest event, right before a must-win game? So instead of repeating the ultra-obvious, the “He needs to have another great game tonight” stuff, I set out to discover 10 things you don't know about Sidney Crosby.

  No. 1: One of his nicknames in the dressing room is “Creature,” a nod to his freakish lower body. It is huge. Gigantic. Hugantic. His caboose would make J-Lo jealous. His thighs are bigger than my torso. All his pants have to be custom made. And the scary part is, his upper body is starting to catch up.

  Sid's other nicknames in the room are now entirely related to his facial hair struggles. They include “Three-Beard,” “Zorro” and “Greasy Mexican” (political correctness is not a forte of NHL dressing rooms).

  No. 2: Sid can fight. We've seen him do it only once in his career (against Andrew Ference this year), but his self-appointed trainer, Georges Laraque, says any fool who decides to drop the mitts with Crosby better watch out.

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