Montreal musings

I've tried for two weeks to sit down and put my thoughts to paper, er, keyboard, er, screen... whatever! I keep waiting for a flash of eloquence and brilliance. Yeah... it's not happening. So in lieu of a brilliant masterpiece, here are my random thoughts, observations, and experiences from the best 5 days of my life, also known as my trip to Montreal for the 2009 NHL Draft.
  • Saw real life cowboys on my flight to Calgary
  • Got a stamp on my very bare passport
  • Experienced a real Montreal thunderstorm (if only for the 10 minutes it lasted)
  • Met awesome Twitter folks: Amanda, Amy, Brian, Charlotte, Dani, Joe, Julie, Kate, Katherine, Kimberly, Kuyaz, Kyle, Rick, Sarah, Silvana... I'm sure I'm forgetting someone
  • Met some awesome bloggers, too, including the mysterious Eklund. Special props out to Brandon of Defending Big D. Awesome guy!
  • Went into the Bell Centre. What a place! I regret that I didn't look around more. I'll need to go back to Montreal for a game.
  • Witnessed, in person, the first round of NHL Draft, including John Tavares, get selected by their new teams
  • Saw B-Rad's name on the Lady Byng trophy that he won in 2004 (I'm not sure the Conn Smythe trophy was there, so I didn't get to see his name on that; the Stanley Cup was around, but I didn't get to see it. I last saw it in person 10 years ago, so I got to see Mathieu's name, but it was obviously before B-Rad had his name was etched on that bad boy.)
  • Played ball hockey
  • Scored the first goal of the ball hockey game
  • Ate poutine! It was as awesome as I've heard
  • Ate a whole lot of Timbits
  • Ate smoked meat (but not from famed Schwartz Hebrew Delicatessen. Yet another reason I need to go back)
  • Drank lots of beer
  • Had a beer with Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau (seriously)1
  • Slept probably an average of 5 hours a night (including one "night" I didn't get into bed until it started to get light; but it starts getting light there at about 4am this time of year)
  • Rode the metro
  • Went to the Biodome and saw the beaver habitat (but the beavers were sleeping; I was highly disappointed)
  • Visited the Olympic Stadium
  • Saw Alexander Ovechkin's mom's name on one of the plaques outside the stadium (she was on the USSR's 1976 gold medal winning basketball team)
  • Sat through a Catholic mass in French in an amazingly beautiful cathedral (I was able to follow along pretty well; Father Sal at work will be so proud of me)
  • Dropped by both McGill and Concordia Universities. The academic in me sees colleges as cathedrals of knowledge and must-see places on vacation.

  • Actually joked with a very pleasant US Customs agent; usually they are so dour
  • Flew on the smallest plane I've even been on from Montreal to Chicago (Bombardier CRJ 700), and on the biggest plane I've ever been on from Chicago to San Francisco (Boeing 767-300). I'm kind of a plane nerd.

Oh, and for the big one that needs more narrative
  • I had lunch with my second favorite player of all time.
Years ago on the old Unofficial Mathieu Schneider Home Page, I had an "About Me" page that, short of anything more creative, I had listed things I've done in my life and also things I still want to do. On the accomplished list, I had "met my favorite player, Mathieu Schneider." On my to-do list, I had "meet my second favorite player, the now retired Enrico Ciccone." I didn't think much of it. Fast forward to a year ago, on my 30th birthday of all days, I get an email from the real life Enrico Ciccone (great birthday present!). He had seen that and said to me that if I was ever in Montreal, he would take me to lunch.

When I found out last month that I was going to be going to Montreal, I wondered if I should bring it up. He seemed sincere. After debating it for awhile, I decided to just send back the original email with a brief "did you mean it, because guess where I will be in June" message. If he responded, then cool. Sure enough, he wrote back suggesting a time and place. I would be meeting him at one of his favorite downtown restaurants (which luckily was close to my hotel), just a few hours after landing in Montreal.

And from here, I will plagiarize myself and cut and paste the note I already put up on Facebook:

I had directions from MapQuest to the place and headed out into hot and muggy Montreal. Those who know me know that I'm not a fan of heat, and, being the pessimist that I am, I was already anxious if he was really going to show up. Plus, I hadn't eaten since a small sandwich at SFO the previous night and I had been awake for the past 30 straight hours. Anyway, I got lost. Badly. And started to get really nervous. At noon sharp, my phone rang, and it was Enrico asking if I was lost. He talked me through some directions before realizing that I was way off. He told me to grab a cab, I gave my phone to the cabbie, they talked, and 3 minutes later I was there.

Side story: I'm weird, and I know this. I keep random currency in my wallet. It's a cool conversation piece, and you never know when you'll end up in Ecuador and need to buy a newspaper. Anyway, among the currency oddities, I have a Canadian $2 bill, which haven't been used in years. Also, I always keep a toonie. Not expecting to take a cab, I had very little Canadian cash on me. The fair was $4. I only had $20s from the ATM on me and a handful of Canadian quarters in my pocket. I could have given him a twenty and gotten change, but I wasn't thinking clearly. So, I did the unthinkable. I spent my $2 bill and toonie!

So... I get out of the cab at the corner and hear someone say "Sarah?" I look up to a sea of suited business men and women on their lunch break, and there was Cicco. Even though he was suited like the rest, he's kind of hard to miss. I mean, dude is 6'5!

I really can't begin to do justice to the next hour. I'm not the best conversationalists, but wow, it was one of the easiest lunches I've ever had. Every once and awhile I'd look up and think "holy crap, I'm sitting here talking to Enrico Ciccone." Even now, I think I'm still a bit shell shocked. Did that really happen? It had to have happened. I have the photo and the gift he gave me as proof. And I'll have those memories...

So, um, yeah, those 5 days were some of the best of my life. I had an amazing amount of fun, met fabulous people, and had experiences that can never be taken away from me.

If you are one of those people that actually likes to look at other people's vacation photos (actually, I am one of those people), you can see the rest of my two collections:
Around Montreal
2009 NHL Draft and Draft Tweet Up

I already can't wait to go back!

1The Bruce Boudreau story? I'll save that one for later. =)


Patty (in Dallas) said...

Oh my GOSH, what an exciting trip! When I started reading it, I was planning to tell you how much fun I had when I went to the 2008 draft in Ottawa. But I didn't get to have lunch with any players, let alone my second favorite! (Our group almost knocked Bill Guerin over at one point, though.)

Congrats on such a great trip!

Eternal Pessimist said...

Wheee! I'm so happy you had a great time here! It was awesome meeting you finally! =)

Next time you come here I shall make sure that those beavers are awake =D