Shawn G. Russell, Beaumont, Alta.
We live in Edmonton and my stepson of five years is a die-hard Blue Jackets fan, notably because of Rick Nash (his room is a literal shrine to Blue Jackets). This is strange in a city like Edmonton, where most people do not consider anything U.S., let alone Columbus, to be a hockey hub. The last team jersey you would see in the stands would be an American-flagged jersey, worn by a Canadian kid.
Our boy is a pre-teenaged peewee Tier 1 level, who has been approached by several scouts for junior level drafting and is aspiring to maybe be good enough to one day make it to the NHL. He his kind and giving, often spending time helping his autistic friend cope with the turmoil of junior high. He knows what giving is.
Since I have known him, all my stepson wants for birthdays or Christmas is Blue Jackets tickets. We would chuckle and we always would try to oblige. Tickets in Edmonton are expensive and usually sold out, unless an unfavorable team like the Blue Jackets happen to be in town and season-ticket holders have better things to do on that night, like getting a root canal or a bikini wax.
Every time we go, our boy is the only person in the filled-to-capacity arena with the Blue Jackets jersey. During the warmups he heads down to the visiting team’s tunnel to catch a glimpse, or to be seen, by his beloved team, looking for a smile, a handshake and maybe make first contact with a pro.
For five years I have seen him stand in that tunnel, as the lonely Blue Jackets fan in the building, as the players walk by not even giving him the time of day, his heart broken, bringing him to tears and causing him to question why he would want to grow up and be like them. (‘Why would I want to be that ignorant?’ he would say.)
Then on Jan. 7, 2010, along came Chris Clark, who noticed our wide-eyed 12-year-old and, after waiting until all of the other players had left the ice, came over to our boy to give him a single black generic hockey puck.
That simple gesture has been the most important event in our little boy’s life. He has cleared out an entire row of his bedroom trophy case and there sits alone a black Reebok hockey puck. That puck is now worth more to him than all of the autographed, team memorabilia we have bought him. And the feeling he got from the acknowledgement from Clark cannot be put into words.
The Blue Jackets have always been a second-tier team, waiting to accumulate enough first round draft picks to make a run for glory. However, they always seemed to be lacking that little extra something. Every team needs class and that's why the Blue Jackets traded for Clark.
Thank you Chris Clark, for what you did for our son. You are a class act!