I've done a lot of things in my ice making career. NCAA games, AHL games, the Speed Skating US Olympic Qualifying, Women's IIHF World Championship including the gold medal game... even making ice for the Bruins practices and other teams that occasionally came through. But the day the Montreal Canadiens came through Warrior Ice Arena it was a special day for me. It inspired me to make an ice making "bucket list" because I had never really even thought it could happen and it would have been at or near the top.
October 26th, 2018
I had awaited this day for awhile. Ever since learning they were coming I got pretty stoked. I wore my Canadiens shirt under my work jacket and popped on my Montreal Expos hat and was ready to go! I mostly respected the players area downstairs in our locker room hallway. Making only the necessary trips down but always keeping my eyes peeled. One time I almost bumped in to Brendan Gallagher, but mostly I just saw the Habs staffers in the hallways.
Most of the time being around the Bruins and other teams I always have the mindset that "This is cool." but also I'm a professional first and in the case of the Bruins I've maybe watched 10 minutes of their practice the entire time I've worked here. Not much interest from this guy. If you don't know the Canadiens and Bruins have an "oil and water effect." They are among the greatest rivalries in not only hockey but all of sports.
I recall the day I was hired here. I came suited up. Carrying a Habs pin in my pocket. Feeling a little dirty about considering working at the rivals rink. I remember telling them I was in fact a Canadiens fan but was hired anyway. A fact that comes up a lot! Since then I've become more comfortable being outward about being a Habs fan. It's a healthy banter I have with most. People love to tease but it's all in good fun, and I certainly have some myself. I even told head coach Bruce Cassidy that I was a Habs guy once and he shrugged and said, "My mother was born in Montreal. I was born in Ottawa. These things happen." Easy for him to say. He was on the right side of the local's love. But back to the rink...
As the Habs PR people came in I made sure to welcome them. They loved the Expos hat. Little did they know I still wear and Expos lid pretty regularly. One of the guys I was talking to asked if he could get a pic of me in the Expos hat next time I made the ice. I said sure thing. Then went down for an ice of a lifetime...
As I pulled out and started I noticed the first player out. Carey Price. He skated to the first pass I had already done on the outside and started stretching. I drove right by him on my next, nervous path. Other players started to come on the ice to while I finished and while I normally yell at people for being out there... even some professionals in the past... I let everything go today. Making the passes themselves was pretty normal. Driving the machine gets to be old hat after awhile. The actual nerves I was a feeling was something I hadn't had in years.
I closed the doors and walked around the rink where I saw the Habs PR guys. I thought they were taking a picture of me but as it turned out it was a brief video. Before I knew it I was on the Montreal Canadiens twitter and holy geez I pulled my coat aside like Superman revealing the C... AND IT"S ON THE CANADIENS TWITTER ACCOUNT!
Forget that they called me a Zamboni guy when we have Olympia brand ice resurfacers.... no need to get caught up in that. Hell they wrote the beginning in French! En Francais!!!
My excitement quickly turned to worry as I realized this might upset the higher ups within the building. This was 2018 and I still wasn't as comfortable with everyone then as I am now. Plus I've gotten in trouble at past other jobs over social media/blog nonsense so I was worried. I went to the office to show them what was happening.
I awaited nervously as they watched...
They thought it was awesome, and I breathed the biggest sigh of relief ever. Maybe they realized that I was finally having that vibe they have everyday. Luckily though as it turned out I had some other options. My twitter blew up as Habs fans found me and responded to the tweet offering me jobs because they assumed I'd now be fired. People proclaimed that "I was a legend" and many other words of support and praise. It was awesome, and is to this day is one of the coolest moments I've had as a human.
I later saved signs from our rink, a puck from practice and only took one picture of the Habs on ice... because I'm a professional! It made me realize that for most people that work alongside me, this is the way they feel everyday. They are around their favorite NHL team. Aiding them in anyway they can. Man, that's a cool feeling that I thought I'd never have. I mean I always knew and respected that was the case for people here in Boston, but that day, for one day, I got to feel that way. Everyone being super cool about it and the thousands of views on that video... my word. It was icing on the cake... which is way better than icing on the rink!
The next night the Habs went across town and handed the B's a 3-0 defeat and I was over the moon. I still have the practice puck on my desk. And all these years later I'm comfortable enough to have signed photos of Guy Charbonneau and John LeClair over my desk. And while I don't wear my Habs stuff much out in public when we're open I do arrive in it often. At this point if someone says something about it in surprise it's like "Are you new here?" Luckily I hire most of our staff so they learn when they come in to interview.
All that said, I've always done the best job I can at the Practice Facility for the Boston Bruins. I've never let the fact that they wear ugly jerseys, and are my most disliked team (and my families too!) stop me from doing my best. Often I find that it pushed me. To borrow a phrase from NYC's playbook: If I can make it here I can make it anywhere. And if I didn't do a good job I don't think anyone would have minded dumping the Habs fan so it was nice motivation to stay on top of my game. Doesn't mean I'd want any credit or a ring or anything if the B's ever won the cup while I'm here... I shudder at the thought. It would bring great shame to my family. But if it was any other team, it would feel ok... thank God for those St. Louis Blues!
Odd that if I wrote something about interactions with Bruins players, coaches and fans I could fill a book... a book I mostly wouldn't care about (and by the way won't write please don't worry boss!). But that one day... it made some memories that I've told hundreds of times already... I mean far less than the Twitter post had views, but still... I mean I've never bought a house. I've never married. I have no kids. But I did make ice once for the Montreal Canadiens, and if I never get to that other stuff, at least I can say that. Go Habs Go!!!!