The boy was just doing his job …
The weather was a minor inconvenience to the money that filled his pockets. It had been two years since his Dad passed away and his job helped to keep his mind off his pain. It also eased the monetary burden from his Mom. His task allowing the fifty – two year old woman more freedom to pay bills and buy food. That way – all of his earnings could provide the cool clothes and kid stuff that would allow him to keep up with his friends.
The boy and his Mom resided in an affluent community .It was not easy keeping up with a two-parent working neighbor. Kids could be cruel and, as his Mom discovered, adults could be just as cruel or more so.
The year was 1991.
David had started delivering print to the doors in his neighborhood shortly after the death of his Dad. On occasion – the job was tedious.Especially those cold wintry dawns when the wind would cut through him like a knife. Still, each morning without pause, the soon-to-be teenager carried out his duties with dignity. Banking whatever money that was available for a car when the law allowed.
Along the way , certain things happened which made his early morning tasks seem worthwhile. One of those things was having a professional hockey player as a client. Not just any hockey player. David had the good fortune to be able to place a paper on the porch of a Montreal Canadien. A particular player who was one of the hardest working skaters in the Habs modern era.
Brian Skrudland of Peace River, Alberta…
Skrudland was one of the lucky ones.One of a handful of players that earn something quickly.A prize that eludes the majority of professional
hockey players for eternity. The Stanley Cup …
Skrudland arrived in the NHL in time for the 1985-86 season. Along with Mike McPhee – the duo evolved into a latter-day Doug Risebrough and Mario Tremblay. A pair of water bugs who – not unlike the 70′s version of themselves, provided grit and determination with each and every shift. Skrudland and McPhee were determining factors in the Habs’ unlikely 1986 Stanley Cup run. The duo hooking up to score the game winning goal in game two of the finals. Skrudland netting the winner just nine seconds into overtime on a nifty pass from McPhee. The two – on – one providing lore for many Montreal fans for years to come. David was seven when Skrudland sent the puck into NHL history. Age has no boundaries when heroes are formed …
David was delighted to discover that number thirty – nine ‘s home was one of his destinations. It seemed imperative for him to stop by and introduce himself. He was the liaison between Skrudland and the world ‘s events. In doing so – David was able to boast of a conversation and an autograph to his envious classmates.A gesture by the Canadien forward that somehow lifted the weight off David’s delivery bag. One small step for Skrudland evolving into giant leaps for David as he made his rounds through the neighborhood…
In the course of the following year and a half , David was able to carry out several conversations with the blonde – haired , six – foot Skrudland. The Habs’ defeat at the gloves of the Calgary Flames in the 1989 finals – the thorn in their normally rosy conversations.
One day – near the start of the 1992- 93 season, Skrudland informed David that he would get all of his team mates to sign a stick for him. A Christmas present for David’s work ethic and for being an all – around good kid. David thanked him and deemed the gesture unnecessary. Skrudland had, after – all, been very generous every Christmas and had even given tickets to a game. The fourteen year old was not able to alter the Hab forward’s thinking.
David did not mind …
A Boy ‘s Life
The young man continued delivering papers to Skrudland and never spoke of the signed stick. He figured when the Habs’ winger got around to it – the wooden piece would be delivered to his waiting arms. The season played through Christmas with the year ending in Calgary on New Year’s Eve – a tradition between the two teams that somehow has lost it’s way as the years have passed.
On January 28, 1993 – David awoke to shocking news. His hero, one of the men responsible for bringing the Stanley Cup ‘home’ - was traded.
Brian Skrudland was dealt to the very team that he helped defeat for hockey’s most coveted prize. The thirty year old forward was sent to the Calgary Flames for a former fifty goal scorer whose fortunes had fallen on hard times. Skrudland himself had fallen out of favour with Canadiens management so the move that delivered Gary Leeman to Montreal was not a total shock. To David it was … His hero and customer left town to join his new team.
In a boy’s travels – life is fast. School, peer pressure and the normal growing pains of evolving from boy to man can make things appear skewed. Just the realization of puberty and the mixed hormonal messages alone can alter everyday perspective. To David – one of his favourite hockey players exchanging jerseys was but one of many trials and tribulations along the bumpy road of adolescence.
1992 – 93 Season
The Montreal Canadiens finished the season behind their division rivals – the Quebec Nordiques. The two teams met in the first round of the play-offs with the Habs’ Eastern neighbors favored to win. Down two games, after a pair of Nordique victories on home ice, les Canadiens
limped into Montreal. Hockey sticks between their legs. In David’s mind – this would not be happening if Skrudland were on the team . Gary Leeman , after a dismal start with his new club – discovered his game and was one of the Habs best players in the final section of the regular schedule. This did not ease David’s pain of losing another male role model in his life.
The Canadiens were victorious in their next four games and commenced a winning streak dotted with improbable exclamation points. A winning streak with ten overtime wins that inevitably led them to their twenty-fourth (and final) Stanley Cup championship. The team’s victory eased David’s aches as Patrick Roy evolved into a new – found hero.
David never forgot Skrudland . He pursued Brian’s career as it passed through Florida and New York - eventually landing in Dallas. It was during Skrudland‘ s first season in Texas (1997), David learned what integrity was all about.
‘Tis the season …
It was a few days before Christmas and David returned home to discover a note in his mailbox. It was a message from UPS instructing him to pick up a package the delivery company was unable to leave, due to the absence of him or his Mom at his home.
Not expecting anything, David’s mind wandered as he drove to the depot. All of his relatives lived close by so a Christmas present seemed unlikely in the form of a UPS package. Leaving his car, the young man entered the building and gave the pleasant young woman behind the counter his note. The dark- haired beauty took his memo and disappeared to another room leaving David alone with his thoughts.
Minutes later, the girl appeared with a package wrapped in brown paper. A package that could be only one thing. No wrapping on this planet could mask the contents of David’s ‘ gift’. David signed a paper to acknowledge the reception of the tan – colored item. He thanked the woman and wished her Merry Christmas. In the parking lot – he noticed there was an envelope attached to the long article. Someone had scribbled ‘ To David ‘ on the front. Placing the package against his car – David ripped open the envelope as a young kid would open a present on Christmas morning.
Inside was a card with a depiction of Santa Claus on the cover. He opened it and inside were a few words penned in ink. Words that made the hair on David’s body stand to attention …
" To David – sorry it took so long to get you the hockey stick . It was hard tracking down all of the guys I played with in Montreal. I hope you have a nice Christmas !"
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