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“The whole hockey world is rooting for you guys.”

May 1st, 2008 · 7 Comments · New York City, Real-life Adventure Tales, The Hockey Hippie

 The Prankster Meets The Penguin




The 3rd game of the Rangers–Penguins playoff series in 2008 when the Rangers went down to the Pens 3 games to nothing . . .

So, I went to the Ranger game last night at Madison Square Garden.  What a hoot!  Before the game, there was some rock band called Overtime or something playing out front on the plaza;  and there were these shooting gallery games like at the Hockey Hall of Fame where you shoot the puck at little holes around a lifesize photo of Lundqvist, and another one that measured how hard your shot was.  And there’s this giant bronze statue of some guy outside the Garden, maybe it’s Mr. Garden, i don’t know, but they had the old guy decked out in a giant Rangers jersey.

I went in for the pre-game skate and a bunch of Ranger fans had made scorecard signs like diving judges hold up during the Olympics.  And there’s one guy walking around in complete diving gear with a snorkel and facemask and a “Crosby Diving Team” shirt.  And all behind the net that the Penguins were shooting into during warm-up was a line of people holding diving scorecards.  Of course, Crosby answered this by setting up a goal a minute into the game.  And the Rangers never really recovered.  It ended up 5-3, but it was even more lopsided than that.

When it was over, I didn’t want to leave — as usual.  I said to my hockey brother Rob, “This is like after my last Dead show at (nearby) Giants Stadium — i didn’t want to leave the venue and we walked all around the upper hallway looking down at the emptying stands and the stage tear-down.  Just keep soaking it in.  I didn’t know at the time it would be the last show ever, but just in case it might be, I always soak in everything to the maximum.”

So we do just that up in Blue Heaven, surveying all of MSG like a wide-angle photograph developing on the brain, burning the image onto the glossy paper of memory.

My poor buddy’s a hardcore Ranger fan so he’s a little down seeing his team essentially eliminated, but he’s being very easy-going about it  — if only because he’s a little stunned in shock.   So, we finally leave and luckilly come out on the 8th Avenue side, and I guide our stroll around by the load-out door where there’s about 50 fans waiting to get autographs or just to cheer the players as they leave.  As soon as we get there, Mario Lemieux comes out in a car with his wife, and I’m thinking, “This is sort of interesting.”

There’s just tons of bright-faced young hockey fans — like this one kid, it was his 15th birthday, and he’s there with his dad and wearing one of the old style teal Pittsburgh jerseys like they wore for The Winter Classic outdoor game this year.  These kids, these fans, all know what the players look like without their helmets on, and they’re shouting out their names as they see them walking out in their suits to get on the bus that’s parked in the runway.  Some different Penguins come walking down the ramp and go right past us.  A couple of them stop and sign autographs.

And all of a sudden, there’s big Hal Gill!  So i go over to him — he was kinda lost — like he was walking past the bus along the sidewalk, and had to stop and turn around, and I’m, “Hey Hal!  Good to see ya!  And good luck, eh?!  Hey, I’m from Toronto!”  And this makes him break into a big smile, “Great!” And I’m, “I’m so glad you get to be with this team now.  It’s the only way a Leaf will ever win the Cup!” and he laughs, and says thanks, shakes hands and heads for the bus.

Then a few people start yelling, “Hey Jarku!” as Ruuto walks up — another guy I wouldn’t know from Adam — Ind i suddenly remember I have all these hockey cards in my bag, and pull out my Ruutu card and run over just as he’s about to get away and the 15 year old kid gives me his Sharpie and Ruutu signs the card.

Then a couple others come along in their fresh n snappy suits, and then — there’s one guy I actually recognize!  Jordan Staal!  It’s just cuz he’s always on TV, and is really tall and skinny and has that sorta blondish hair and he’s just walking right out past all the fans and out to the street.  I run up to him cuz he’s really one of my favorite players — hockey’s new royal family and all — and i start walking along beside him going, “No way!  Jordan!  Way to go man!” and I’m slapping him on the back of his brown leather jacket and he’s not wanting to break his stare from straight ahead, almost like a guard at Buckingham Palace who’s supposed to not turn his head.  Not to mention him thinking, “Who is this crazy Rangers fan?  And am I about to be attacked?”  But I’m just making such a big fuss over him he’s goin’ with it, and I look up at his face that’s about as far away as the top of the Empire State Building, and I can see he’s got this huge beam on and is laughing — and I’m just sorta running along beside him since he’s walking very fast and determined, and I’m about 5 jumbo beers into it and I just kept slappin’ him on the back and raving on about how great the team is and how I’m rooting for them and he’s just laughing away at my enthusiasm and stick-to-it-ness.

So, he’s walking the same direction as Hal and Ruutu were, and I realize their bus is parked out on the street, and so I watch as he and the other guys climb up the stairs and disappear into their dark cave.  It wasn’t a regular big charter tour type bus, but a mini-bus, like you see shuffling people around at airports.

All of a sudden, I dunno, but . . . suddenly there was no security type person standing at their bus door, and I thought, “Ah-ha.”

So I walk out nonchalantly into the road as though I’m just going to cross the street, and I see the bus door is open!  And I go, “No way!”

So, I turn, and just Boom — I run up the stairs and onto their bus!

There was a driver in the driver’s seat, and he didn’t say anything.  It was really dark in there so it was hard to see exactly, but nearly every seat was taken — like they were just about ready to take off.  So I stand up at the front like a tour guide holding onto the silver pole, and I just start in on this riff, super excited, quite skiddlie, but i just started goin’, “Hey you guys!  I just wanted to tell ya you’re just great! And thank you for what you’re doing for hockey all over the world.  This is just the best thing.  The way you’re doing it, inspiring the kids, and hockey fans all over, it’s just fantastic and i just wanted to make sure you guys knew it and how much it’s appreciated, and you guys are doing the right thing and doing it the right way!”

It’s really dark, and I don’t know most of the player’s faces, but I can see Jordan Staal, he’s on the aisle about 2 rows from the back, and maybe he had an overhead light on or something, but I could see his tall head and he’s just got this huge teeth-beaming smile on — a fellow twinkling prankster for sure.  As a performer, you often pick out one person in the audience and deliver the show to them.  Zone in — and if you’re totally connected to that person, have them hanging on your every word, you don’t lose your train, and everybody else can ride along.  So I’m sorta delivering this whole spontaneous monolog to Staal.

And it was so weird, cuz you sorta picture a hockey team’s bus as i dunno, rowdy, partying, everybody talking at once — sort of a Slap Shot scene.  But everybody was in very proper suits sitting quiet and back-straight in their seats like a troop of uniformed soldiers or something.  But the General was on the bus!

And he was right in front of me!  The very first seat beside the stairs is Coach Therrien, and he’s laughing away, I couldn’t believe it!  But I knew I had the room if he was laughing.  🙂  But I didn’t wanna look too closely in case he signaled for me to leave.  And it’s so great that in this 9/11 world they weren’t too freaked-out by this strange guy jumping into their midst.  Neither the coach nor the players nor any staff ever made a move to stop me, and here I was given this spontaneous, unsolicited pep-talk to the entire frickin’ Penguins team!

I’m looking right into the faces of the guys in the first couple of rows but I couldn’t positively identify any of them — those damn helmet disguises they wear!  I think the rookie type guys have to sit in the front — none of the first few rows were Laraque or Talbot or Malkin or Malone or any of those super recognizable faces.

I had the presence of mind to realize that they weren’t kicking me off, and that I actually had the entire team’s rapt attention, and the coach is sorta rocking back and forth in his seat he’s laughing so much.  It was like open mike night, and the host had just nodded that you can do another song!  🙂  So I did.

I went into something like, “I’m from Canada,” (I wanted them to know I’m an authentic old-school purist hockey person, not just some demented drunk New Yorker)  So I told them, “I just drove all the way down here to see you play tonight, and I just want you to know that everybody up there is rootin’ for you guys.  And what you’re doing is just great!  And just keep goin’!  The whole hockey world is rooting for you guys.  Believe me.”  And I gave ’em a nod & a stare with a good long pause.

I remember thinking that I didn’t wanna say anything to jinx it — like talk about The Cup or anything beyond this series.  So I just said again, “What you’re doing is just great!  Keep doin’ what you’re doin’!”   I couldn’t believe I was there — and I was sort of running out of material and didn’t want to overstay my bizarre welcome, so I just gave them a happy final wave in farewell and scampered down the stairs as fast as I climbed them.  The whole time I was just beaming with joy, and I’m sure that’s what allowed me to be there unchallenged.

So, . . . that was the night I ran onto the Penguins’ bus in the middle of the playoffs and gave them a pep talk.

you can also hear my crazy live morning-after riff (the April 30th episode) at

For more MSG hockey adventures — check out The Rangers and Sacred Places.

For a beauty one-sheet on the Penguins line-up with line combos and jersey numbers and everything — go to Penguins Line-up.

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More Adventure Tales you might enjoy . . .

The Jumping Out Of A Car While Being Robbed, Kidnapped or Killed Story.

or … the Setting A Record Driving up First Avenue in New York story.

or … the wild physical confrontation both Al Franken and I got caught up in at a Howard Dean rally in New Hampshire.

or … that whole Long Island Mansions Adventure with Steve Winwood, Sheryl Crow, Tom Cruise, Spielberg, Tim & Sarandon.

or … the time I scammed my way into the “On The Road” premiere in London in the courtyard of a palace,

or … snuck backstage at the world premiere of the new “On The Road” in Toronto and met up with Walter Salles,

or … our whole Adventure together at the New York premiere.

or … there was the greatest single night in New York’s history — when Obama first got elected.

or … the worst single night — when John Lennon was murdered.

or … there was the time The Grateful Dead came to town and played my 30th birthday party.

or … the night I went out in the Village with Jack Kerouac’s old friend Henri Cru on his 70th birthday,

or … went running with the Olympic torch when Canada was hosting in 2010.

or … the time I snuck into Dr. John and ended up hangin with his whole band.

or … the time I found that cat while out waterfalling on the Niagara Escarpment.

or … the time my mom and I got trapped in the worst hospital in Italy and barely escaped with our lives.

or … of course one of the great multi-day Adventures of all time — Obama’s first Inauguration.

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by Brian Hassett


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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rob Salmon // May 3, 2008 at 7:17 PM

    Such a great story! An honor to live it wit u. And glad you gotten it written down.
    Let’s go Rangers!!!

  • 2 Debbie Vazquez // May 4, 2008 at 12:23 PM

    You’re the best, Bri!!!

  • 3 Chris Welch // Apr 7, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    the prankster pulls off another one. you slay me, bro. keep em comin.

  • 4 Richard Marsh // Jan 18, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Awesome Brian! LOVE this bus story. That took nerve!

  • 5 Ken Morris // May 7, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    You freakin’ wild man prankster. No security or VIP section will ever contain the ever elusive Winnipeg Jet!! Five big MSG cold ones, eh??? lol.

  • 6 Mary Jo Hicks-Sullivan // May 8, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    Brian my friend – your life is unbelievable.
    I love reading your adventures … Hope we can go on one together soon!
    You make me smile even when I don’t feel like it.

  • 7 Fab Orwick // Aug 28, 2016 at 10:14 PM

    Love it!!
    Your ‘Travelers scavenger hunts of predicaments and precarious situations check em as you add em list’ has a wide variety of exciting tales of the ‘only the lucky’ kind.
    Amazing Ride : )

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