First of all. This experience on Saturday was so fulfilling, I wish it for everyone. If you have something or someone that means a lot to you in this capacity, I hope you get to experience this feeling.
My Dad is from Roseau, Minnesota, where they are quite proud of their hockey.....and rightfully so. I guess I garner some pride of my own from the relation.....I've been known to claim Roseau as home in some hockey circles, here and there. (But I'll usually back track after the claim...hahaha)
So, like I said, Roseau is proud and they should be.....I believe they've stuck 10 players in the NHL.....remember this is a town of just 2,500. That's pretty remarkable. The most decorated of those players is, of course, Neal Broten. He's been my hockey hero since before I can remember. He's just always been my guy.......Others my age had Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemeuix, etc. For me, it was Neal Broten and that was reinforced by my Dad, who was also my coach, as he would set up meet n greets with Neal for our teams at car dealerships or where ever Neal would be at. I think my earliest memory was up in Roseau, at their arena, I was skating around with a puck.....probably thinking I was really cool......maybe 7-8 years old (totally guessing) and some jerk comes and steals my puck.........yeah, it was Neal.
And there was this moment (pictured below), that's outside the Roseau Liquor Store, perhaps the same trip as the infamous puck stealing incident.
Have I built up the story enough? I don't really idolize anyone anymore, you know, I'm a grown man. If anything I idolize my kids and parents, but that's about it. There was most certainly a time, a long time, in my life I idolized Neal Broten.
Well, this past Saturday, I got to play hockey with him, in a charity game for the Hendrickson Foundation. I'm now forever grateful to Danny and the Hendrickson family for making this moment happen, so if I post about the Hendrickson Foundation in the future, please support by re-posting, donating, whatever. I also have to say thanks to Justin Pagel, who, I'm pretty sure, is responsible for me being in this game to begin with.
I was, not only, on the ice but on the same team and, inevitably on the same line. I got to sit on the bench with my childhood hero and shoot the breeze, talk about the game, and just hang out. I even completed a pass to him. It was pretty incredible.
This pic below was just before we went out.
The pic below is significant because this was, apparently, the first time since 1997 that the 3 Broten Bros. skated together.
As if all of that wasn't enough.......after the game, Neal walked over to me, said "it was great to get to skate with ya" (and some other very nice things) and handed me this........
Yep, that's his jersey from our charity game, so now I'll have that memory forever on top of the mental memories. I truly wanted to pinch myself.
Yes, Neal Broten was the highlight for me, but there were so many other great moments, like getting to skate with one of my best friends, Mark Parrish. It's easy to just take it for granted because he's a friend. BUT the guy played 12 years in the NHL....so I NEVER take skating with him for granted. That was a blast as well. Plus, every time you were out on the ice it's either former Wild great Andrew Brunette or Wes Walz or you're catching a pass from Keith Ballard or trying to defend Jordan Leopold. Not to mention 1980 Olympic Gold Medalist, Dave Christian.....yeah that's the "Do you believe in miracles?" team.....a team Neal Broten was also on.
Like I've said more than once. What an experience and the founders have already said that "out doing ourselves is always the goal", so I expect next year to be even more insane.
Above and below........
I'm lucky to call this guy a great friend, Mark Parrish. Was a true thrill to get to play in a game with him.........poorly chosen pic below, I believe we had just allowed a goal. Son of a......
By the way, if you're a Wild fan or just a hockey fan, music fan, parent and a number of other random topics, you should check out our podcast, the "Parrish & Fletcher Podcast". Click here OR listen on the iHeartRadio App as well as iTunes. #ThePodcastSkates
I, also, showed what a great teammate I am. Keith Ballard had just completed a halftime race and didn't want to get up, but we needed him to get to the bench so the second half could start.......
So....I did what any good teammate would do..............
Lastly, because I'm a man who's not afraid to be embarrassed, I'll share this. During the half time of the Special Hockey game that took place after our game, I agreed to be in a sled race against Muss from K102 and Audra Martin from Fox Sports North........looking back, that was a bad idea.......just watch......you'll see.