Off to find the hero of the day
Never meet your hero.
I follow that advice by default for the most part. My sport or music heroes don’t usually turn up in these parts, though one time I met did Snow, the Canadian reggae singer behind the 1992 hit “Informer.”
Speaking of that Snow song, before continuing, could you do me a HUGE solid?
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, stand up and in your best Canadian reggae rap voice, sing “A licky boom boom down.”
Do it! Please! It’ll open doors for you.
Back to meeting heroes. On Friday afternoon - coincidentally at around Happy Hour - I head downtown to meet my all-time hockey hero.
His name is Wendel Clark. To you, he’s maybe just a guy who played with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
To me, Wendel is hockey.
He worked hard, playing with three Ts - talent, tenacity and toughness. (He also had another notable T, his goatee.)
Wendel could score. He could hit. And he could fight.
As someone who played with just one T - terrible - Wendel was absolutely amazing.
I’ve been a fanatic since his 34-goal, 227-penalty minute rookie season in 1985-86.
I watched as many of his games on TV possible until he retired in 2000.
I’ve viewed a YouTube compilation of his highlights 7,436,001 times, I think of him every time I put on skates, and his book, “Bleeding Blue: Giving My All for the Game” is on all my mobile devices.
And here I am on a rare sunny Friday afternoon about to meet him.
I’m geeking out at the prospect, but feeling plenty of nerves too.
What if he is a rude jerk? What if he isn’t as cool as thought?
What if he has one of those eerie, wet noodle-like handshakes?
What if this experience goes worse than the first 100 days of the Trump presidency?
I could very well be on my way to losing a long-time hero.
The hotel bar is empty, save for some guys sitting around a table in the corner.
I’m escorted there and realize the group includes Wendel as well as NHLers Dale Hawerchuk, Shayne Corson, P.J. Stock, Marty Turco, and Brad May.
They’re in town for a Heart and Stroke Foundation fundraising tournament.
I’ve interviewed all sorts of “names” — prime ministers, members of the Royal Family, TV and music stars, etc. — but I’m tragically shy and absolutely star struck right now.
Corson played with Team Canada at a Canada Cup and the Olympics.
May hoisted the Stanley Cup 10 years ago with Anaheim.
Turco started in goal at the 2003-04 all-star game.
Hawerchuk is a freakin’ hall of famer, with 1,409 career points.
And P.J. Stock … has nice hair when he’s on TV.
I quietly join the group, talk a little about the area, and then chat with Wendel.
We sit away from the pucksters and have a beer.
I speak with him as a fan, not a journalist.
I pummel him — with questions, too many questions.
Among other things, we talk about the game, his work as a Leafs ambassador, his wrist shot, how he doesn’t play much hockey anymore.
He enjoys country music, thinks Doug Gilmour (circa 1992-93) was the best he played with, and has big dreams for his restaurant chain, Wendel Clark’s Classic Bar and Grill.
I’m blathering, in complete awe, and can’t help myself.
Wendel graciously answers each question, even though deep inside he’s likely telling himself this can’t end soon enough.
I thank him for being so accommodating and leave chuffed about the experience.
Never meet your hero - unless it’s Wendel Clark.