Monday, 7 September 2009

What's Past is Prologue

Am I about to bastardize a Shakespearean metaphor for the purposes of making some lame-ass hockey analogy? Oh, you bet I am.

"...she that from whom
We all were sea-swallow'd, though some cast again

(And by that destiny) to perform an act
Whereof what's past is prologue; what to come,

In yours and my discharge."
What's past is prologue. Story of my life, and of a lot of people's lives, I expect. This idea is probably most poignantly related to one person's life. The idea that what's passed is merely the prelude of what is to come. How often do I wish to structure my life in such a manner, for everything I've experienced to simply be the exposition of my own adventure tale? Most days.

For one young man, I feel like what's past is merely the prologue to his real story. Or I hope it is at least. This is probably the most unorthodox "So-and-So Days" post of the summer, but it's almost fitting since the subject of today's post has already had a less-than-average hockey career.


The other day was Stefan Legein Days (he wore 26 last year in Syracuse), but somehow, my heart just wasn't in it, sort of like his heart wasn't into going to Traverse City last summer for the Columbus Blue Jackets' training camp.

Then today, I saw this, and it reinvigorated my faith in this young man, and the sport of ice hockey and my love the Columbus Blue Jackets franchise for, as Stefan says, "being so patient" about his somewhat unorthodox journey to the pros. (There is a God, his name is Scott Howson.)

Stefan Who, you may be asking? If you know me well, you know the name, if not, well then let me introduce you to one of the most spunky players I've ever seen hit the ice. Spunky, but storied, even at only 20 years of age.

After being drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft (37th OA) to the Columbus Blue Jackets, playing a kick ass season (but missed the end of it due to injury), he retired. At 19. Last August (2008) no one knew what to make of it. I still don't really know what to make of it. I'd like to think that it's as simple as him having been burnt out and needing a break. I mean, how many 19-year-olds question their chosen life paths? The only difference for Legein was that his decision to question his future made headlines on and TSN and warranted an article on the Bleacher Report. (I tried to find links to the original Globe and Mail article, but this was the best I could find.)

This year the news is a little different. If you're too lazy to click on the link and read the whole article, I'll summarize the important part right now: Stefan Legein scored Columbus' only goal in a prospects game against Minnesota. I seriously couldn't be happier. Honestly. Not even if Kris Letang showed up at my door (IN VANCOUVER) to deliver my season tickets to the Pens. Note the various impossibilities in that sentence and then extrapolate my degree of happiness about this...

So, how did this whole love affair begin? Because clearly it's not in my nature to simply pick my favourites based on their decision to retire and their subsequent under-dog status. (And YES, he is one of my favourites. In fact, he currently holds the number two spot, right below Kris Letang, because Dany Heatley has some serious grovelling in the form of winning the Rocket Richard Trophy and maybe the Art Ross before he gets back in my good books...)

Legein is one of my favourites because of the 2008 WJC. He was James Duthie's 'wounded cowboy'. The best 2:39 minutes of WJC coverage ever is of him being interviewed after winning gold in Pardubice. He got hurt doing something like THIS ----------->

Did I mention he's about 5'9"? Yeah, cause he doesn't PLAY like he's an inch taller than me. He plays like he's about 6'3" - he plays hard, he plays dirty when he needs to and he'll drop the gloves when the game requires it of him.

He was out with said shoulder injury for a few months and just made it back for OHL playoffs. That summer though, he decided to retire. I don't know why, and I kind of don't want to know why he did it, all that matters is that about four months later, he decided it had been a bit hasty and signed with the Syracuse Crunch. He played his first regular season pro gam with the Crunch this past January and then broke his finger in his second game back.

Now, this is where his story and my story become intertwined in a strange way. When I found out he'd come out of retirement, I said fuck it and bought a ticket to visit my family in New York. I was homesick anyways. I wanted to see them. I needed out of Vancouver's interminable rain... And I didn't know if I'd ever get to see him play again, so I bought a plane ticket to JFK and train tickets 'home' to upstate. Then I got a ticket to the Crunch game against the Baby Pens in Onodaga Arena in Syracuse, pulled on my Sykora jersey and then spent the entire first period trying to explain to season ticket holders why I was cheering for both teams.

I went to that game to see Legein play. I went to New York to see him play. The whole trip I decided to take down to DC, a trip that changed my life forever, was merely a side trip I decided to take when I figured I was close and the Penguins were playing the Capitals and was there anyone crazy enough to meet me there to go to see the game.

And there was.

And the rest is history.

But it's important that Stefan Legein was the catalyst. He plays a strange, crucial role in my own story, and in a strange way, even though I've only met him for a couple of minutes after that game in Syracuse as he signed my Team Canada jersey, my heart is completely invested in his success. I want to see him make the game's most incredible comeback. I want to see him be the AHL's player of the year. I want to haul ass to Columbus, Ohio or to wherever his first NHL game is when he finally gets called up JUST so that I'm there, so that I can cheer for him in his first game in the big league. Even if I have to go alone like I did in Syracuse. Somehow, I can already justify buying his jersey and waiting in the bitter cold for him to sign it like I did last February.

Now, I do not go all fan girl on ANYONE. Ask around, I go mute. Or I just don't care. But Stefan makes me Squee like I'm thirteen. I just want to hug him and tell him he's awesome and I'm proud of him and I know it's irrational, but I just want him to be happy. I want him to succeed. And it makes no sense, and he's never going to be a superstar like Sidney Crosby, but maybe, one day, he'll be a superstar like Max Talbot, and score a couple of clutch goals in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.

What's passed is simply the prologue to his story, as everything before this past year is the prologue to my own story. I wrote months ago, after seeing him play, that the hardest part of life is writing your own happy ending. There is nothing more difficult that figuring out what you want, but there is nothing simpler than going after it, no matter the hurdles, once you figure out what it is that you want. I hope he knows what he's in for... and when he says things like this?

"There's just nowhere else I'd rather be than Traverse City. Waking up at 6:45 a.m. and getting the crap beat out of you on the ice by opposing players just trying to make a living. That's how I know that I'm back for good." -- Stefan Legein
That's how I know he's back on the right path, kind of the same way I've finally found my own path (however much I have to hack through the creative thicket with my own, personal machete). And I couldn't be happier for him.

So, cheer for the Syracuse Crunch this season, if you don't have an AHL-love. Or just cheer for Legein... because enough people will be cheering for the Crunch's other big name forward...

Because, you were looking for more reasons than THIS to get you to a Crunch game ...

Dearest Stefan,
Best of luck this season. I'll be cheering for you and checking your stats online every game-night. Oh, and I'll see you in Hershey on December 26th. Please don't break anything before then, okay? Or get called up to Columbus. I can't afford another jersey or a plane ticket to Ohio this fall. You have plenty of time for that in the 2010-2011 season when I'll be a couple hours away in Pittsburgh. Then I'll come to as many of your games as I can. I promise.


Val said...

Now that was beautiful...thanks for taking us through his and your journey...

lauren said...

How about if he gets called up briefly so Kylie and I see him play the Flames over Thanksgiving weekend, and then gets reassigned to Hershey over Christmas? Everyone wins!