Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
Summertime is here and it seems tradition that hockey players hit the links. If you are in North America, it is difficult to avoid some of the celebrity golf tournaments that are happening. If you have an interest in collecting autographs and meeting some of the hockey stars, read on. This tells of my first experience with such an event.
Collecting autographs has been a big hobby of mine and I have quickly learned that, since I don’t live in a NHL market city, summer celebrity tournaments are a terrific place to meet players. My first tournament was interesting – not knowing what to expect. I had no list of participants, so I gathered a large assortment of hockey cards trying to take a somewhat educated guess at who might be there. I even put in a card of my all-time favourite player, Gary Dornhoefer, on the very off chance he might be there (the back of most of his cards refer to the fact that he was one of the NHL’s best golfers). I also prepared myself with a couple Sharpies and some blank 3” x 5” index cards.
The big attraction at the time was Eric Lindros as he had just been signed by the Philadelphia Flyers. The list of players there is a bit much to put here, with at least two players representing each team as well as some retired players, so I cannot mention everyone. Arriving at the golf course, some players were already on the driving range for some practice. With the amount of spectators, some of the star players were virtually impossible to get near. Lindros was one of these, naturally. The good part was that that left a lot of space around some of the other players: Ray Bourque, Jeremy Roenick, Kevin Dineen and Claude Lemieux to name a few. I had given up on Lindros, but after leaving the tournament I stopped at the airport just a few minutes away (as there were rumours he was leaving early to fly back to Philadelphia) and chanced a meeting there where I was able to get his autograph after slipping by a couple of Mounties.
Some players were still coming out of the clubhouse and one of the first things an autograph collector will find out is that it is sometimes difficult to recognize the players out of uniform. This is when you ask some of the people gathered around the player (out of the player’s earshot) who he may be, or just have a blank 3 by 5 signed to be safe. One such player turned out to be Tom Barrasso. He turned out to be one of the very ignorant players involved in the tournament. After signing two or three autographs he made the general comment, with children present, “If they think I am going to sit here doing this all day, they are f****** crazy.” Not a very pleasant man to say the least and as a side note, he was not asked back the next year.
On the other end of the spectrum was Roenick. He was mobbed between the ninth and tenth holes and when asked by security if he wanted the place cleared he replied, “No, I am happy to spend some time signing for the fans.” He then sent his caddy for some water and signed for a good twenty minutes. Also there were Curtis Joseph and John Vanbiesbrouck, just to name a couple more.
And whatever happened to that Dornhoefer card I brought with a gleam of hope? Well, upon deciding to leave I spotted him on the first tee and had that card signed as well as having my photo taken with him. Not a bad day at all.