Memorabilia Memories, with Rick Ackerman
I wish I could tell you a story about how my father was instrumental in introducing me to hockey and how he took me to games when I was growing up. Alas, my father was an avid Cardinals baseball (and football) fan and for the most part, ignored hockey as a major sport. Of course, he was too young to really remember the one year the Ottawa Senators relocated to St. Louis as the Eagles and only had a minor league hockey team, the St. Louis Flyers, to follow in his youth. How could the Flyers compete for attention with the mighty Cardinals? Nevertheless, I write this article as a tribute to my late father as I recall the many fathers of hockey players I have been fortunate to meet and chat with over the years.
I was taking my pre-game concourse stroll around the TradeStocks Center one October night several years ago wearing my black and green North Dakota #7 jersey when this big, burly, rather handsome guy with slicked-back black hair approached me and asked if I was from Grand Forks or had attended the university there. When I replied in the negative, he then asked if he looked like anybody I knew. Again, I said no, and that's when he finally introduced himself as Tim "Coach" Oshie, starting a friendship that I am happy to say continues to this day. Over the years, Coach has introduced me to almost the entire Oshie clan, including his mother (who recently passed away), a most charming and elegant woman. And I will always remember the long conversation about hockey and life in general that we had at Pat's Bar and Grill late one night after a Blues game.
And it's because of the jerseys I wear to games that I get to meet people like that. Another evening a couple of years ago I wore a Calgary Hitmen jersey to a preseason game. While strolling the concourse, a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was from Calgary. It turned out that he was from Vernon, British Columbia, about halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, and the father of Tyler Shattock, the player's nameplate on my jersey. Shattock, a former draft choice of the Blues and a Peoria Rivermen veteran, now plays for the Worcester Sharks of the AHL after a short stint with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. I also met David Perron's father at a game one night as I was wearing David's jersey from the Lewiston Maineiacs of the QMJHL.
Last year my wife and I sat down to watch the pre-game warm-up one night. A man sitting in back of us asked her if she was from the Toronto area since she was wearing a Niagara Ice Dogs jersey with # 10 and a Pietrangelo nameplate. She replied with the right answer, no, she just liked the young Blues defenseman a lot. Yes, it turned out to be Alex's father, Joe, and we spent the rest of the warm-up chatting instead of watching the players skate around. A very proud papa indeed, Joe was gratified (and surprised) that people in St. Louis had or wore his son's jersey from his amateur days in the Ontario Hockey League.
My many trips to Peoria also produced chance meetings with fathers of players, the most memorable being the night I met Olaf Eller, visiting from Denmark to see his son play pro hockey in the United States. Olaf was himself a star player for the Danish National team as well as a coach for several teams in the Superisligean (or Eliteserien), the premier hockey league in Denmark. We had a grand time chatting hockey as he was just as eager to learn about North American hockey as I was to learn about European hockey. He invited me to sit with him for the third period, too, and was most gracious and informative. Olaf was very surprised to learn that my son is living in Denmark, and told me to be sure and look him up when I go for a visit. I also ran into Basil McRae, a rough, tough forward for the Blues (and six other NHL teams, including the Red Wings and Blackhawks) in Peoria, there to watch his son Philip play for the Rivermen.
Another good place to meet fathers is OB Clarks in Brentwood, where Chris Kerber has a post-game show on KMOX in which he chats hockey with various players. The night Patrik Berglund was a guest was most interesting, as Patrik introduced me to his father, Anders, a former star player for Vasteras, Patrik's home town in Sweden. Anders was most charming and gracious, however since it was his first visit to St. Louis, we really talked more about "our town's" restaurants (especially Italian on the Hill) and touristy places to visit. I also met Brad Boyes' father (and family) one night at OB's, which was especially cool since they all expressed interest in the St. Louis Game Time I had with me, asking if they could keep my copy. One of the off-color jokes was about Brad.
I will unfortunately have to save my Bobby Hull story for another time, but suffice it to say it is always gratifying to run into and chat with the fathers of hockey players. That special gleam of pride for their sons in their eyes is always a pleasure to observe and a reminder of their influence on their sons' careers as professional hockey players.