If you follow me/the Nation/Jeanshorts on Twitter, you’ll likely know that we were in Moose Jaw over the past weekend, to cover Ryan Smyth’s jersey retirement with the Warriors. Did we get to meet Ryan Smyth? Yes, we did (he even signed my Nation hoodie). But that’s not what I want to talk about today (JS and I have already covered Smytty anyways), I want to talk about my new found love for Moose Jaw.
Before I even get started, I’m going to give you all fair warning that there will be very few words of hatred thrown at Kevin Lowe in this article so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be sorely disappointed. As much as Kevin Lowe may annoy all of you, he has nothing to do with my new love for Moose Jaw and I will not have him sullying my new home away from home. I WON’T HAVE IT!
What started off as a weekend where my main goal was to meet Ryan Smyth without crying ended up as one of the best times I’ve had in a while. Yes, some of the fun is attributed to the Nation team that braved the blizzard to make it out to Moose Jaw, but a lot of it had to do with the city itself. If you haven’t been to Moose Jaw, it’s a place that has everything you need but also the friendliness of a small town.
Smytty aside, the best part of the trip could have been just cruising through downtown Jaw and looking at all the old buildings that are being restored. You have to respect that they’re honouring the past despite getting younger as a population. Sound like some other organization we know? Anyway… for a city with only 35,000 residents it sure felt like there was a lot more going on than that, and they’re working to keep getting better.
Even as we were leaving I couldn’t help but wish we had some more time there. The people were friendly, the women were beautiful, and we had a great time all around! To make matters worse, when we got home the Oilers got absolutely levelled by the Leafs which certainly didn’t help my Saskatchewan yearning. At some point, I’m sure we’ll be back but to this point the Jaw made a great first impression.
From Mac the Moose to Mosiac Place and everything in between, Moose Jaw is a cool place to be. Another big thank you has to go to Tourism Saskatchewan for hooking us up throughout the weekend – you guys put on a good show.
Even though I knew that I might get a chance to meet Ryan Smyth, I didn’t really expect to be able to talk to him. Amazingly, after Jason Gregor was nice enough to introduce us to him Smytty was willing to stick around for a few minutes to chat with us. I knew that I wanted to ask him a question, but I was on the spot so I could only ask about the Gretzky video he watched as a kid (his billets mentioned that in their speech).
He said that he didn’t remember much from what was on that VHS tape, but it was good enough for me. Ryan Smyth had actually acknowledged that he heard the words coming out of my mouth, and that was all I needed. Frankly, he could have said “shut up asshole” and I would have been happy. But as you would have expected, Ryan Smyth is one of the friendliest human beings to ever stand on two legs.
A little bit later in the night, there was a break in the game and I went to see if Smytty would sign my hoodie (he also signed JS’). As he was signing, I decided to ask him in another question. This time I asked what it was like during the 2006 playoff run to play in a rink that was so loud that you couldn’t even hear yourself think. I wanted to know if there was any time to soak in what was happening during a game like that?
“Which game were you at?” he asked.
“Game 6 against the Detroit.” I answered.*
“Ah, you should have heard Game 6 against Carolina.”
My heart stopped. What a hero. It wasn’t like he gave some profound answer or anything, but he spoke to us as if we weren’t idiots that blog about his life’s work. Throughout the night, he was accomodating to absolutely anyone that stopped him to ask for a picture. He signed countless items, and shook even more hands. For a guy that has made $60+ million in his career, Ryan Smyth was one of the most grounded people you could ever hope to meet. There was no ego, there was just a guy that loved the game.
At the end of the day, Ryan Smyth said about 20 words to me in total when he really didn’t have to. He didn’t have to come back to Moose Jaw for a jersey retirement, and he didn’t have to play shinny with a men’s league team the morning before the ceremony either, but Ryan Smyth is a guy that knows what hockey means to people and what he means to people. He probably met two hundred new people that day, and I bet he treated every one of them with the same courtesy.
If only some of that could rub off on the crew we have roaming the halls at Rexall these days. Smytty, you’re a legend and my favourite Oiler of all time.
*I had been to a bunch of other games during that playoff run, but I couldn’t remember all of them and I was already trying my best not to stammer and cry.