By: Kevin Kinghorn
When Hazel finally found out, she says she "nearly fell through the floor."
She wasn't watching when it happened. Between periods Hazel takes her dog Reba - yes, she's named after the country singer - out for a walk in the backyard of their Boundary Bay home.
Her husband John heard it first.
"I was watching the game and there was this guy on TV saying the winner was Hazel Gray from Delta," he said. "She didn't believe me at first."
"And I didn't even know what she'd won."
A few e-mails and a phone call the next day cleared things up and Hazel finally came around.
Hazel Gray won the "Hit The Road" contest on Molson Canadian Canucks Pay-Per-View.
She was still euphoric Saturday afternoon in the airport before joining the Canucks in Anaheim, and pulled out an autograph book for Neil McCrae and Brother Jake to sign at the check-in counter.
"I've never won anything in my life," she said. "I'm serious. Not scratch-and-win or anything. I can't believe this."
It's not surprising that the Hit The Road contest winner would be a Canuck fan. After all, you have to buy the Molson Canadian Canucks Pay-Per-View program to qualify, but picking Hazel Gray out of a barrel gives one faith in karma.
When Mattias Ohlund took a puck in the eye that nearly ended his career in September of 1999, Hazel sent him a get well card. She still has the ticket stub to every game she's attended since 1997. And most of all, Hazel's convinced that NHL officials hold a secret grudge against Vancouver.
"I like them win or lose," said Hazel, decked out in a Canuck jersey and hat while waiting to board a flight to LA. "Sometimes they do screw up. But you know what, you can't control the officials. They've been just awful to our guys."
Now that's a true fan.
The Grays first moved over from the United Kingdom in the early 80's to join the Canadian mining industry. Neither knew much about hockey.
"It used to drive me crazy at first because I didn't understand the rules," said Hazel. "I'd get frustrated when I didn't understand why they call penalties."
She went to the library and studied up on the game. That was back in 1983. She not only knows the rules nowadays, she's somewhat of an expert.
"I just hate the way they pick on Bertuzzi. They just never let him alone. Did you see the other night when they knocked him down right in front of the net? I saw he was looking right at him and he didn't even call a penalty."
Hazel's looking forward to her first Canuck game outside of Vancouver. She's hoping the officiating is better but most of all, Hazel wants the Canucks to make the playoffs.
"I'll tell you what I really don't like," she explains. "Maybe it's because of my age, but I don't like it when they have to swap the guys around. I like to know their names. I get confused."
Hazel knows there are always a few trades and signing in the off-season, but she fears a late-season collapse could mean sweeping changes.
"I'm hoping for a big run," Hazel said.
She's not alone.