When trauma reaches the big leagues
After more than 15 years of direct access to NHL dressing rooms, this is my truth: regardless of how well you know a player, a staff member, fellow media, there is one underlying fact. When something serious happens, we are one fraternity.
You don’t have to know a person well. Sometimes, you may have barely encountered them, but the emotional tug is the same.
I didn’t know Ace Bailey or Mark Bavis well when their United Airlines flight 175 was hijacked and driven into the
When Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman Jiri Fischer went into cardiac arrest and collapsed on the bench with his life hanging in the balance, I felt more connected because I had a one-on-one interview with him the previous season. We talked about some very personal topics, such as his decision to come to
Jiri admitted the main reason for his move was to get noticed enough to increase his chances of making the National Hockey League. He knew some English from taking it in grade nine, but German was his second language. However, when he arrived in
“There were always a few guys who didn’t speak proper English, but during the year, Claude wanted us to have the best possible chemistry we could have, so I was learning English, and the native Quebecers were learning English…obviously the guys from Ontario were picking up some French.”
The lifestyle changes he had to make upon his arrival were the toughest adjustments for Jiri. His billet, Linda Landry, became very important to him. He continued to visit with her often after he made the NHL.
Florida Panther RW Richard Zednik and I spoke one-on-one in the same season about the same issues. He wanted to stay in
As far as understanding his coach or his teammates … “The only language we had was hockey.”
The hardest adjustment for Richard was food. He hated the typical pre-game meal of chicken and pasta. He didn’t like the sauce. Over the years, it has become his favorite food but he missed his mom’s cooking in the first couple of seasons.
“At home (in
Through those interviews, Jiri Fischer and Richard Zednick had created a soft place in my heart.
So when Richard’s
As much as there is sometimes a “we/they” thing going on at the rink when reporters are madly trying to reach their deadlines, players are trying to get out of the venue as soon as they can, and staff members are trying to appease both sides, when something happens, you can’t be human and not feel something. But when you have even just a tiny or passing connection to one of those people, it keeps you grounded amongst all the pomp and fluff.