It was the late Andy Warhol who said that in the future everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes. Even yours truly. And I did have my moment when I was interviewed on t.v. by a station in Montpellier, a town of three hundred and twenty thousand near where we were living in Nimes. Even if it didn’t last for fifteen minutes.
We were practicing for our league opener against a squad from Montpellier, Nimes’ traditional rival. Of course it was impossible not to notice the t.v. cameras that reporters were setting up beside the boards. As we skated briskly through our drills while the cameras were rolling I tried my best to position myself advantageously for their attention, wondering all the while about my best profile.
There was a shout from the sidelines. “David, viens ici.” I delayed a second before slowly skating over, trying my best to give the impression that t.v. interviews were becoming tiresome.
“Would you be able to answer a few questions for the evening sports news in Montpellier ?” the reporter politely asked. I nodded blandly, my body language doing its best to communicate that this was just one more request on a long list. Then I reached into my mouth and removed my mouthguard, as I had seen N.H.L. players do after scoring a goal, knowing that the cameras would be on them.
“I have to put my teeth back in,” I joked to the interviewer. Then I winked at the camera in the way that I had always seen Bruce Willis and Chevy Chase do it, male role models for my generation. The interview rolled by without a hitch. I’m a natural at this, I thought to myself.
Saturday night was ‘le match’ versus Montpellier. It was my first game in France and the opposition supporters were as numerous in the stands as those cheering on the home team. The singing had already started, something a North American is not used to, and this ruckus would continue on throughout the game. My wife Brenda and my two sons were in attendance as well, of course. My two year old son Adam had even put on his special Donald Duck hat for the occasion. I couldn’t help but feel conspicuous as I skated around during the warmup, knowing that everyone would be sizing up le nouveau canadien. My eyes roamed to the other end of the ice to check out their import, a 220 pound Quebecois defenceman just out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The puck was dropped, starting the action for real. I picked it up, skated by two Montpellier forwards, put it between the legs of a third, and then nearly had my head taken off by the opposing Canadian defenceman who had skated sixty feet out of his way just to give me a warm welcome to French hockey, Canadian style.
In between periods Georges, our coach, let me know what he thought of my dipsy-doodling. “You’re not on a frozen lake in Canada,” he raged, “trying to see how long you can hold onto the puck.” I nodded humbly and contritely, just as I expect a student to do when I’m reading the riot act in the classroom.
Third period. A minute-and-a-half to go. Montpellier leading 3-2. One of our defencemen intercepts a pass at the opposing blueline, moves first past one checker, then another, and feeds me a perfect pass fifteen feet in front of the Montpellier net. The goalie is down and out, flopping helplessly out of position. Now is the time to justify my big interview and play the big shot, I think to myself, as I pull the trigger.
I miss the net. I not only miss the net, I put the puck over the screen that is used here instead of glass.
“It’s the Euro curve,” Georges sympathizes with me as I skate back over to the bench, with the Montpellier fans increasing the volume of their incessant singing. We have no limit on the curves over here and some of the sticks recall memories of the banana blades of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita in the 1960s. I glance back to take another look at the missed net and I see Donald Duck on the far side of the boards running to retrieve the puck.
Ten years later I’ll tell him the story about the spectacular winning goal that I scored with that puck !