Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Well, I'm home! To explain the somewhat cryptic posts that got sent earlier today from my cell phone: the Phantoms just had an 11:05AM matinee game vs. the Manitoba Moose (the farm team for the Vancouver Canucks).

Maxime Ouellet, who was a centerpiece of a blog post I made two years ago, was recently traded to the Vancouver Canucks and assigned to the Manitoba Moose. Today's game was the first opportunity I've had to see him play in person since the night I wrote the above-mentioned post.

To make a long story VERY short, Max has had a rough go of it so far this season. He was originally supposed to be promoted to the Washington Capitals as their backup goalie. But instead, he wound up sent to Washington's farm team, which is currently the Hershey Bears. The Bears already had two goaltenders, and they gave him a grand total of ONE start between October and now. They weren't even bringing him with them on road trips to Philly, which really got my goat because Max still has fans here, including me, who would really have liked to see him.

Anyway, Max got traded last weekend to the Vancouver organization. They promptly sent him to the Moose, who immediately gave him the start in their next game -- and he not only won, but earned the #1 star. :o) *That's* the Max we know and love!

I was praying that Max would get the start today, too, when the Moose came to Philly. And bless their coach's heart, he DID give Max the nod! I just hope that the others who still follow Max were able to get the day off work and attend this game.

It was another nervous-breakdown game for me, as no matter WHICH team scored, it gave me a pang of regret for the goaltender. (In the Phantoms' case, that would be our baby goalie, Martin Houle.) I wasn't quite as bad of a mess today as I was the last time I watched the Phantoms play against Max... THAT night, I thought I was gonna need CPR at any moment. ;o) The long and short of it is that the Moose won 3-1, and Max was the #3 star. For a guy who'd only started one game all season prior to this week, and that was back in October, he's sure off to a heck of a start with his new team!

I feel like I have a split personality after games like this. I hate to see the Phantoms lose. But I can't root against Max, so even though the Phantoms-fan part of me was disappointed for our boys, the Max fan part of me was happy for HIM. It's disorienting to have perfectly good reasons to feel both happy AND sad over the same game results.

But I'll tell you what. I have an extra reason to tack on to the "Why I feel happy" list. I went around back after the game to the visiting team's bus ramp. I had with me a greeting card that I picked up while Max was still in Hershey. It's an encouraging card, which I suspected he'd benefit from receiving while he was waiting for some ice time. But once I had it, something told me to hold off on sending it. That "something" was right, because today I got to hand it to him in person. :o) He's resumed playing and has had a couple great games, but I hope he bears the card's message in mind no matter what, because who knows what kinds of ups and downs this season will have in store? (I hope it's lots of ups, and few or no downs, but life doesn't always cooperate with me regarding wishes like that.)

OK, actually, I have TWO additions to the "Why I feel happy" list. The other one is that Max recognized me on sight, which impressed me plenty because the last time we saw one another face-to-face was November 2003. And smiled and offered a hug. :o) Anybody wonder why I dote on this kid? Not only has he got genuine talent, he's a genuinely nice human being.

Long story short less long: I saw a particular favorite player have a great game, got greeted BY him after the game (God bless his good memory), gave him a card, and got a promise out of him that he'd keep believing in himself no matter what. :o) Now that's what I call a productive day! I'd love nothing better than to have a bunch more days just like it! (Preferably with teams other than the Phantoms being on the wrong end of the score, that is.)

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