For the second time in three years, the Nashville Predators schedule had them in Toronto on the night of the annual Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Each of these affairs is special and create a convention that can only be called, "A Night in Hockey Heaven."
My first time in that atmosphere was the 1992 ceremony, when the Hall had not yet moved to its current location, and Marcel Dionne was the headliner. Having worked with him in Los Angeles, he invited me up from Buffalo to take part. What a privilege that was. I know it didn't make up for his never winning a Stanley Cup, but it was recognition of the excellence of his career.
That's why on this current Preds trip on Monday night, I spoke with Marcel about how much it meant to him to see his former Kings' teammate, goaltender Rogie Vachon, make the Hall:
You may have noticed Marcel's comments about Rogie's three Cup wins there.
Also in the class of 1992 was "Badger" Bob Johnson - longtime coach at the University of Wisconsin, who also coached the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins. His motto: "It's a great day for hockey!" will never be forgotten. When I was doing Notre Dame hockey in the 1970s, Johnson was running the Wisconsin program and was always a delight to deal with. It was great to share those experiences with the Johnson family at the reception.
From Nashville, I gladly made the trip for friends who were honored with the Foster Hewitt Award for broadcasting. First in 2000, the Voice of the Kings, Bob Miller was honored and he included Claudia and me in the festivities. In 2004, it was Hartford-Carolina's Chuck Kaiton, who was doing University of Michigan games when we first met. This year, I had the chance to congratulate New York Rangers TV voice Sam Rosen in person.
The Elmer Ferguson Award goes to outstanding writers. When Miller took the Hewitt, Edmonton's Jim Matheson nabbed the Ferguson. As Kaiton was honored at the media luncheon, good friend Jim Kelley of the Buffalo News received his plaque.
Last night was special for many good friends on hand. I had the chance to speak with both Dominik Hasek and Pat LaFontaine from my Buffalo days. Very few people are like Pat. As we shook hands, the first words out of his mouth: "How's Claudia?"
Several former Predators players were also at the event. Cliff Ronning was there with his wife Ivana in support of Pat Quinn. I got the chance to speak after the ceremony with Pat's daughter, Kalli, who accepted his induction. She spent several years as David Poile's executive assistant. And an original Predator, Scott Walker was there as well with his wife, Julie. I got the chance to talk with Scott about how he helped train a current Predator, P.K. Subban, and he began by talking about P.K.'s dad.
Bottom line, it was a special night, about a special game. A game which has captivated a multitude and been so good to many of us.