“Look at him go! Look at him go! Fay, come see! Come see! They just can’t catch him! It’s unbelievable!”
We were not there. We were in a motel in Fargo, North Dakota. It was Tuesday, May 12th – the morning after Dante Hannoun raced down the ice chased, not by the opposition, but by his own teammates. Dante threw his hockey stick in the air and soon it was followed by his hockey gloves. His teammates could not catch him. Had he gone mad! Perhaps.
Mad with pure ‘adrenaline rush,’ pure exhaustion, and pure joy. They were CHAMPIONS!
It was one of those incredible moments in sports. I wish I could have been there. But I will remember for a long time that image of #17 for the Prince Albert Raiders scoring in the 19th minute of overtime of the seventh playoff game and racing to the other end of the ice chased by everyone on his team. Scoring in overtime - scoring in the 7th game – scoring for the team – scoring for a championship - scoring for the dedicated, breath holding fans – something every kid who plays hockey dreams of doing.
The Art Hauser Centre erupted in joy. And well it should have. The Prince Albert Raiders gave us pure joy. Thank you Dante, all the players, coaches, the Raider organization, and all those fans who lived this great season from start to finish.
As I watched Prince Albert digest and relish what had really happened that night, I was swept back, remembering other memorable moments in sports that are indelibly imprinted on my mind.
31 YARDS TO GLORY!
It was Sunday afternoon, November 26, 1966. It was the fourth quarter. George Reed, the Saskatchewan Roughrider’s unstoppable fullback, burst off tackle and raced 31 yards to the end zone. Finally, the Grey Cup was ours. Screaming, leaping from the couch where I was sitting, I thrust my right arm up in a burst of joy – ramming my fist into the ceiling of my good friends, the Onishenkos,’ TV room!
My arm hurt like h___. Those with me stared in shock. I quickly apologized to the ceiling and to my hosts. But my joy was unabated. I had waited many long years for this – remembering how Glenn Dobbs and my Riders had fallen to this same Ottawa team in 1951, the last time the Riders made it into the Grey Cup. They lost 21 to 14. I, a little boy, huddled over my grandparents’ radio, had been crushed. Now, sore arm and all, I was filled with unleashed emotion.
It was the fall of 1972. I was coaching the Prince Albert Technical High School’s football team. The team had not won a game in all the years it had been in the League. We won: 7 to 6. It might as well have been 100 to 0. The explosion from our team, our fans, and we coaches went rocketing to blue skies above us. We finally had done it!
Personal admiration. That is what I felt back in May of 1986 when the Prince Albert Raiders won the Memorial Cup, the Stanley Cup of junior hockey. I had no right to be over exhilarated. I was a Raider fan, but certainly not a regular season ticket holder. My connection to the team in that day came out of the classroom. Rod Dallman, Doug Hobson, Danny Hodgson, Dave Manson, and Dave Pasin, all members of that historic Raider hockey team, were students in my English and History classes.
I congratulated them, not from a seat in the stadium but from inside the walls of Carlton Comprehensive.
November 26, 1989. 2 seconds to go. Score tied 40 to 40.. The Riders inside the Hamilton 30 yard line. In comes Robo-Kicker – Dave Ridgeway. Surly he can do it – bring an end to the game that came to be called the ‘Most exciting Grey Cup of all time’ - bring the Grey Cup home to Saskatchewan for only the second time in the history of the Riders – and where was I.
I was hiding behind a pillar in the Pannell’s rumpus room – overcome with anxiety. The other guests laughed at me as they stared transfixed at the TV.
The snap – Suitor fielded the ball – Ridgeway swung his foot – time stood still -
The ball went through the uprights – I heard the scream of elation from my friends – I peeked out – the Saskatchewan Roughriders had done it again.
Insanity engulfed the room – insanity engulfed Saskatchewan.
There are so many other stories to tell.
So until next time:
We will have these moments to remember!