Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Me? A celebrity? Only when skating for a good cause

My guess is that many famous Grand Rapidians sent their regrets.

Betty Ford is busy in California helping the rich and famous dry out.

Andy Richter is comforting Conan O’Brien through difficult times.

Taylor Lautner would likely spark a riot among high school girls.

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. is sparring with potential opponents over drug testing.

Rev. Al Green is helping people stay together.

Anthony Kiedis is doing whatever hot peppers do when they chill.

Gillian Anderson is chasing UFOs.

NASCAR driver Johnny Benson is driving in circles somewhere.

Chris Kaman is dribbling in LA with the Clippers.

Staring down that stack of declined invitations, I suspect staffers with the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey team decided that the term “celebrity” can be applied to certain newspaper education writers/baseball bloggers, at least in dire circumstances.

I’m glad they did!

The Griffins are the Detroit Red Wings’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, and are very active in the community. Players are participating a downtown Winterfest, followed by a marathon “Great Skate” to raise money for the West Michigan Youth Hockey Foundation.

The group helps young people succeed in the classroom and on the rink.

Players are using the skating event to raise money, and the team reached out to local celebs and media personalities to join in the fun – and the fundraising.

I was invited, and my editors signed off on the plan as long as I knew there would be no workman’s compensation should I hurt myself trying to check one of the area television types if they decided to lace up some skates.

I do fear that the Griffins are unaware of what happens to teams when I start to follow them. It’s been said I’m a bad hockey fan. Or, more correctly, a fan of bad hockey.

Naturally I followed the Islanders through their magnificent Stanley Cup run. But I’ve loved minor league hockey ever since Rich introduced me to the New Haven Nighthawks during our time in Connecticut.

There’s a chance I gravitate toward the type of players sometimes called “goons” in impolite circles. OK, I formed a fantasy league based entirely around penalty minutes.

Our favorite Nighthawk was Ken “The Bomber” Baumgartner, who could mix it up with the best of them. But Bomber was a brawler with brains, went to Harvard and everything. We were bursting with pride when he eventually played for the Islanders.

We moved to Flint in 1990 in time to catch the final games of the Spirits, and were devoted to the Bulldogs, a team in a new league that replaced them.

Our glorious adventures with the Bulldogs, our loyalty to Jacques “Mad Dog” Mailhot and the near-brawl with Boris the mascot is a tale best told here.

I promise there will be no such shenanigans when I join the Griffins as we lap Rosa Parks Circle on Jan. 31.

But I did have a good time designing my official fundraising page, wearing my classic, game-worn Nighthawks jersey and recreating glorious poses from Topps hockey cards of the 1970s.

That page is here, and, if you feel inspired, a donation of any amount is greatly appreciated.

I’m just grateful I don’t have to drop the gloves and dance with Floyd Mayweather. I don’t think Floyd can skate, but he sure can punch!


Anonymous said...

"I promise there will be no such shenanigans when I join the Griffins as we lap Rosa Parks Circle on Jan. 31."

(sigh) Were there ever sadder words written than these? If you don't ask at least one TV type if he (or she) "vunts to dahnce" then the terrorists have won.


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