Dan Salemme was the happiest man south of the border Wednesday.
For the first time in three years the 54-year-old native of Chicago was able to leave home in his Vancouver Canucks jersey and hold his head high. The naysayers were everywhere, sure, and he took flack, you bet, but he finally had the upper hand.
“It was a great day to be in Chicago,” said Salemme, during a phone interview, before putting his Canucks jersey back on to go pick up his wife Barbara from work.
When Salemme was 14-years-old he and his friends pooled their money so the group could buy a few pre-season baseball, football and hockey magazines. He remembers, vividly, reading an NHL magazine in 1970 when one of his buddies demanded silence, like a judge in a chaotic courtroom, to point out the ugly emblem of the stupid new team.
Salemme, keeping it real, didn’t voice his admiration for the simplistic blue, green and white hockey rink with a stick in it, but something simply clicked and that was that – he was now a Canucks fan.
Cheering for Vancouver comes with the territory in British Columbia, not so much in Illinois. Salemme went to games back in the day when he could; he was in the balcony in Chicago Stadium on February 27,1977, when Stan Mikita scored his 500th goal on Cesare Maniago. It wasn’t a proud moment for Canucks fans, but it was a moment nonetheless, one that he thinks back to when times get tough.
Salemme has been living with Parkinson's disease, a brain disorder that can lead to shaking and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination, for the past 16 years. With finances strapped and the majority of his hockey collectables sold to cover medical costs, going to games to experience new Canucks moments hasn’t been an option.
At least that was the case until Vancouver visited Chicago for Game 3 of this year’s playoffs and Salemme’s sister-in-law, who works for the White Sox, treated him to a pair of tickets to witness a 3-2 Canucks win.
Dan took his 18-year-old son Jeffrey to the game and the odd couple drew stares what with one in a Roberto Luongo Canucks jersey and the other backing Patrick Kane in a Blackhawks sweater.
“It was a great feeling to be there. I had never been there, my son is 18 and I had never taken him to a game, I just haven’t been able to.”
The win meant a lot, but the experience meant more. Especially since Salemme escaped the game in one piece.
“It’s tough being a Canucks fan here, people throw beer and garbage at me, they yell at me, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cursed at, but I keep coming back.”
That fighting spirit and love for the Canucks is what initially caught our eye.
Salemme recently added his favourite photo of himself with his sons Jeffrey and Timothy (top photo) to the Canucks mosaic at ThisIsWhatWeLiveFor.com, along with a blurb that included the following: “As a Parkinson's disease sufferer, getting around can be tough, but not as tough as winning the cup.”
Find Salemme in the mosaic to read the rest of his inspirational message to the Canucks.