April 9, 2012. Post written by James Laplante. You can follow him on Twitter @JimLaPlante

 

 

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Like many young boys I dreamed of becoming a professional hockey player, preferably with my beloved Montreal Canadiens.

 

I thought I would get my shot in a Bantam Hockey Tournment held in Alexandria Bay, New York.

 

Doug Harvey, yes that Doug Harvey, was slated to be the referee for the championship game.

 

Our club did indeed make the final match and Doug Harvey was there dressed in a referee outfit and skated effortlessly throughout the match.

I don’t remember much about the game (Notes state our team won 3-1) but I’m sure I spent more time watching Mr. Harvey then paying attention  to my responsibilities on the ice.  I had visions that Mr. Harvey would go back to Montreal and inform Montreal’s General Manager Sam Pollock that he’s discovered an American Phenom with a French Canadian name and my career as a Habs player would soon begin.

 

No phone call came but I still look back fondly of sharing a sheet of ice with one of the all-time greats.

 

 

The most recent experience I’ve had with a famous person was caused by both my dedication as a parent and lack of common sense.

 

The guys at the firehouse had gotten me and my son into wrestling.  A few of the guys and my son actually attended a WWE Raw event in Albany NY.

 

We sat in the very last row in the upper deck and belly laughed when Stone Cold Steve Austin drove a beer truck into the arena and sprayed Mr. McMahon with beer.

 

A wrestling superstar at the time, Mick Foley AKA Mankind, was signing autographs at a local mall.  My son Chris was a big fan of Foley’s and Chris’ birthday was around the corner so I decided I’d get an autograph of Foley for his birthday.

 

I left work and arrived at the mall and my jaw dropped as I saw the line of autograph seekers was out the door and stretched completely around the Mall.

I was in line for hours.

 

My wife stopped by to see how I was doing never uttering what I am sure she was thinking, “What the heck is this man doing?”  Instead she brought me a snack and a drink.

 

That somewhat explains why I am a happily married man but that’s a story for another day.

 

After hours of standing in line it was finally my turn.  I happily turned over a few dollars and was given an 8 x 10 picture of Foley.  I walked up to Foley who was seated at a folding table and nervously asked him if he would make out the autograph to my son Chris for his birthday.

 

Without looking up from the table or uttering a word (I think he might have groaned but perhaps it was just a loud breath) he scratched To Chris, Mick Foley on the photo and the next in line was called.

 

In less than 30 seconds after spending hours in line my son had his personalized autograph of Mick Foley.

 

 

Now, let me tell you another short story … it’s about The most famous person I’ve met I really didn’t meet.

 

Let me explain.

My father would take my brother George and I to an Expos game at Jarry Parc every summer.

 

On one such trip we arrived early and parked the car in the lot near the stadium.  My father had had a recent procedure on his knee and was on crutches which slowed our walk down considerably.

 

As we began our slow trek into the stadium my Dad pointed to a man and said to my brother and I, “Hey boys!  There is Jackie Robinson.”

 

George and I looked at the man and both of us blurted out, “That is NOT Jackie Robinson !  What would he be doing in Montreal ?”

 

 

In fairness to George and I my father was a bit of a jokester and we didn’t know of the history of Jackie Robinson to the City of Montreal.

(Jackie Robinson played his first professional game for the Montreal Royals who were the farm club of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time)

 

 

The man heard the conversation between father and sons and stopped, turning his head towards the three of us.

 

I remember this as vividly as any event in my life.  The man’s eyes met my fathers as if to ask, “Do you want me to introduce myself to your sons?”

 

Just as quickly my father’s eyes seemed to reply to the man, “No! Let the snot nose little rug rats figure it out.”

 

I then saw the man nod his head towards my father and my father quickly returned the nod.  Now many years later I know what that nod was.  I call it the father nod.  Most all fathers do it.

 

The man then hurried away and we made our way to our seats.  Just before the start of the game the Public Address Announcer, Claude Mouton announced, “Mesdammes and Messieurs de le premier pas de Jackie Robinson!”

 

Coming out of the dugout was the man we had seen in the parking lot.

 

My brother and I looked at each other with our mouths wide open.  I looked over at my father and his head was pointed straight at the field but the grin on his face was as wide as I’d ever seen it.

 

 

The ride home was very quiet but the grin on my father’s face never faded.

 

That explains why I do not have a picture of Jackie Robinson and YOU should always listen to your Dad!

 

 

 

Don’t hesitate to leave a comment on James’ post. Do you have a personal story with a pro athlete you’d like to share ? !!

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