For most it was simply another night of hockey chat in the summer, dressed up as the NHL Awards and Expansion Draft night – a ‘welcome to the NHL’ for the Los Vegas Nights.That’s what I was expecting. Thankfully I received a lot more.Certainly the dragged out, corny and sometimes amateurish evening of quasi-star Hollywood sorts introducing equally unskilled public speaking jocks provided arm chair hockey coaches plenty of fodder to argue about over beer and chips.Why didn’t Vegas grabs certain available players such as, Bobby Ryan, Patrick Marleau, Bryan Elliott or Anti Raanta? Will Vegas now sign unrestricted free agents such as Alex Radulov, Brian Shattenkirk, or TJ Oshie? Will they make trades to try and move up the NHL regular junior draft next week?Or, on the awards side, why did Brent Burns win the Norris Trophy for best defenseman over Erik Karlsson?As the night droned on, however, some magic weaved its way in. Wrapped up within the hockey hype and marketing were some valuable and poignant moments loudly providing lessons in life: Even fame, glory, and millions of dollars cannot buy immunity from the challenges of life.The reality of such began with the announcement that star Blackhawk sniper Marion Hossa will not play next year due to a debilitating rare health disorder. Hossa has a significant skin reaction to wearing his equipment which causes tremendous discomfort and pain and has plagued him for a few seasons now. It is not known if his career is over.Later in the evening Ottawa Senator goalie Craig Anderson received the Bill Masterton Award for perseverance struggling through his season while dealing with his wife’s battle with throat cancer. With his wife Nicholle in the audience Anderson told the audience how much they appreciated the support of Ottawa fans and team members during their struggles.”Stay in the moment. Live for the now,” Anderson wisely reminded the crowd.Just minutes later the crowd gave standing ovation to Brian Bickell who with his wife thanked fans for his years of support as a player. Bickell prematurely retired at the end of the season after learning he has Multiple Sclerosis.Finally, in a poignant moment, Stanley Cup winning goalie Marc Andre Fleury was announced to the roar of the Los Vegas crowd as the team’s selection from Pittsburgh.Marc proudly wore his new team’s new uniform onstage.It was a somber reminder to all that no matter how talented you are that your job security somewhere is nil in pro sports and that despite all your credentials and skills – life does not always play fair or nice.It reminds us also that no one gets out of here alive or without scars, and no matter how high up you get drafted your time on the ice of life is limited to a few good shifts. Make them count.
Speaking of life’s challenges and struggles it is with mixed emotions that I bid farewell to long time friend Cathy (O’Brien) who died last month after a tough battle with lung cancer. Cathy is akin to family, eldest sister of my teenage best buddy Butch O’Brien.Cathy was a force to reckon with in her own way, always watching out for her fellow family members and friends, and a solid, fun, caring human being. Cat had a wit and mirthful side which was more active, extroverted, and humorous the better you knew her. Family and close friends were her everything.Like a true O’Brien she was not adverse to a challenge or to fun and certainly moved to the beat of her own drum. From jumping off the back of a moving truck in anticipation of sky diving or flying through caves in the Dakotas in helicopters – Cathy enjoyed her world. Of recent Cat started writing a regular blog. Through it she shared her thoughts, fears, tears as she battled cancer. As her precious sister Karen said, “The strength she gained through the writing, she became the strongest woman and ‘swimmer’, I know with her personal battle of Cancer.”Cat is survived by her best friend and loving husband Rick Hughes, children; Rhiannon Gunn, Michael Hughes, Jim Hughes, and Ray Hughes. She is also survived by brothers: William O’Brien and Laverne, sisters Colleen and Karie Hay and numerous grandchildren and relatives. A private family celebration of life will be held in Chilliwack,.I will miss Cat and the bond we had.A fine friend, inspiration and big sister – I thank you.