It’s Tuesday morning at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. Like any other game day, I was standing near the bench with my camera, waiting for the zamboni to finish its work on the ice so I could begin snapping some photos of the morning skate to post online.
As we waited for practice to begin, several players stopped to sign autographs for fans in the stands who came to watch.
One of those players was Jake Allen. As he signed jerseys, posters and hockey cards, he spotted someone he knew and invited him down to the bench. The fan greeted Jake as if they’d been friends for years, then almost immediately asked “Who does the Blues social media accounts?”
Jake pointed at me.
“I tweeted at you today,” said Jake’s buddy.
“Oh yeah?” I said.
Jake then introduced me to his friend, whose name was Brad Pond. For those of us who monitor the Blues’ presence on social media, that name rings a bell.
Last month, we received several Facebook messages from a concerned fan who was asking for regular injury updates on Allen.
As it turns out, the concerned fan was Brad - Allen’s buddy and hockey equipment manager at his old high school in Fredericton, New Brunswick. On Tuesday, Jake invited Brad to Ottawa to give him the grand tour of what it’s like to be a pro hockey player on a game day.
He took him to the locker room, introduced him to his teammates, gave him tickets to the game and even let him do a pregame interview for TSN in Canada.
“The city where I’m from, everyone knows Brad,” Allen said. “He’s involved in all kinds of events. He helps out with the local baseball team in town, the high school hockey team - he’s at every game volunteering. And he loves the Blues - he knows everything about the team, the play-by-play guys - he’s just a huge fan.”
If you ever needed proof that the hockey community is a tight-knit family, then this is it. Allen hasn’t carried a backpack through the halls of Leo Hayes High School in almost 10 years, yet still takes care of his high school hockey equipment manager.
And just like friends do, Brad even managed to get a few jabs in during his TSN interview.
“What’s it like being a St. Louis Blue at the moment?” asked TSN’s Brent Wallace.
“It’s good,” Brad answered. “They’re in second place. They should be in first place, but they’re not.”
Good one, Brad.
Jake and the boys are working on that.