March 18, 2010

Meeting my hero

Well, Blog, today is a special day: the 50th birthday of my personal hero, former NHL star and coach Guy Carbonneau. Although not all our readers know that name (but some sure do!), I bet they all have personal heroes they would give anything to meet in person. Well, I did, almost exactly ten years ago!

At that time I had spent a couple of years working on a huge tribute website to Guy, who was playing for the Dallas Stars. He knew about the site, and I had corresponded with his brothers, but we'd never had any contact. This story from my website tells how one lucky girl had a very special meeting with her hero--against the odds.

Oh and one other cool thing, Blog--today's article on Guy's 50th on the Montreal Gazette's site links to my tribute site when you click on his name!  So glad to get to share the 316 pages of my site (well, who's gonna read them all?) with his many devoted fans.  Still love you, Guy!  Now, back in time ten years....

"It’s always darkest before the dawn." I can vouch for that, and you can bet I’ll never forget it again.

On March 5, 2000, as I watched the Stars play the Red Wings on ESPN, I eagerly anticipated my annual visit to Dallas, only 17 days away. Midway through the second period, Guy Carbonneau skated off the screen, and somewhere off camera he got his hand caught in Kirk Maltby’s jersey. The jersey snag fractured Carbo’s wrist and likewise my dream of seeing him play in Dallas. I struggled with despair, wondering if I might never see him play with my own eyes again.

If only some guardian angel could have whispered in my ear, "Hey Diane, there’s something you should know. Did you see that stick Guy was using in the game? In three weeks that Sher-Wood will be hanging in your kitchen."

Darkest before the dawn…gotta remember that.

The first glimmers of morning light tinged my heart a couple of weeks later. Reports were that the wrist was healing well. And yes, Guy made a fantastic recovery and was cleared to play just in time for our trip. It was a miracle, I was thrilled, I would get to see him in practice as well as two games!

But as we took off for Dallas, I had a new quandary. Was there any way I might get to speak to him, during this visit that might be my last? I took my two game-worn Carbo jerseys to Thursday practice, hoping for divine intervention.

What I and my companions found was that the viewing gallery was closed that day. Another stroke of bad luck! But the light in the east continued to grow, and divine intervention appeared in the form of Assistant GM Doug Armstrong, who took pity on us and let us watch practice from the lower level. What a thrill! A full practice, complete with scrimmage, by the Stanley Cup Champions, viewed from ice level. And flying among them was the man about whom I had written thousands of words without saying a single syllable to his face.

It was glorious, and my head spun joyfully as it always does after watching a Stars practice, but what next? We lingered in the Stars Stuff store, a little aimlessly, when who should appear but another visiting angel: Stars play-by-play announcer Ralph Strangis. We struck up a conversation with one of our favorite broadcasters, and finally I had the courage to tell him of my plight. He advised we wait outside where the players left in their cars. It was a plan…

But when we went out to the lobby, we found it was pouring rain outside. Always, as I must repeat, darkest before the dawn.

Ralph found us, perplexed and forlorn, and said he needed to go back to the dressing room. He would tell Guy I was there. Ralph returned a few minutes later with instructions from Carbo to wait there in the lobby, and he would come. And a few minutes after that, the door opened again.

Prettiest sunrise I’ve ever seen.

You might think I had imagined this scenario quite a few times in resplendent detail, and you would be right. You might think I dreamed of having a few photographs of myself talking to Guy Carbonneau about his sweaters, right again. You might think I imagined him smiling, being kind, taking all the time in the world to speak with me, making me actually believe he was pleased about his website and delighted to meet me at last, and of course you’re right again. You might think I most certainly set myself up for disappointment and there was no way this rendezvous could live up to my expectations.

Dead wrong there, bucko.

This is Guy Carbonneau, so of course, it was better than my expectations. It all happened, all of it and more. And then he asked me to come back so he could give me that Sher-Wood. As if he needed to give me anything else.

During our visit to Dallas I saw three glorious practices, two awesome hockey games, and spoke with Guy a total of four times. During our visit to Dallas I also put behind me my fears that I might never meet this great man, and replaced them with the conviction that I haven’t seen the last of him. I left Dallas with Guy Carbonneau’s Sher-Wood UPS-ing its way to my kitchen wall. I left Dallas also with the matching gift he gave me: the feeling that I had actually done something to repay him for all he’s meant to me. Bless you, Guy.

So remember that lesson, friends: It’s always darkest before the dawn.

As for me, I feel like the sun is never going to set.


  1. SUCH a great story. I remember reading it some time ago- probably when it happened (as I was reading hockey snacks at the time) but the awesomeness of it is not in any way diminished by time. What a fantastic hockey player and an even better human being is Mr. Carbonneau. I can't see anything about him without inevitably thinking of you. :) (a good combo, for sure!) It's so great (and unfortunately, kind of rare) when our heroes not only meet our expectations, but exceed them.

    Thanks for re-sharing! :) Happy Birthday, Guy!

  2. Yes!!! Thank you for re-sharing, it's just an amazing story with everything working out even better than you could've dreamed! :)

  3. Sam, that is so cool. Being associated with Guy is certainly a great thing! Katesi, it really was a miraculous day. I'll never forget it. Only way it could have been better would have been if you and Manzi were along too!