Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Walt and Me

When I was a kid, I loved playing hockey at the outdoor rinks. Having spent the first 14 years of my life in Thunder Bay, I had the chance to play hockey outdoors for about 4 months of the year. Some days we would spent 5 hours just playing hockey and the only breaks we would take are to shovel snow off the ice and then get right back to it.
I can still remember my greatest day at the outdoor rink. It was 1992 and we had been playing outside for a while when someone joined our game. He was a tall man; much older than we were and he was wearing what I thought was the coolest jacket in the world. It was a green satin jacket with a Devils emblem on the left part of the chest. I knew right away this was Walt Poddubny! I only found this out later, but he was at home in Thunder Bay recovering from another injury.
I can honestly say I don’t remember if he was on my team or the other team but that afternoon I was playing “in the NHL”. He skated with us kids for what seemed like hours and we just had some much fun making passes, poke checks and the odd “rub out”. I didn’t want to ever leave that ice but of course Walt would eventually leave and all us kids had homes to get to for supper and that ended our fun for that day. I would go back to that ice over and over again hoping to relive that magic but the chance would never come. I would eventually move away from Thunder Bay and play on different rinks but it would never match that day.
My parents went to a fundraiser not long after that game and they would come home with a few autographed items. My step-father bought himself a Darren Turcotte autograph puck (which I have now); a Guy Carbonneau autographed Montreal Canadiens sweatshirt and a small gift for me. The gift was an 89-90 OPC Devils team set which I found an odd gift because I had all those cards in a complete set already. However, when I looked at the cards, one of them was autographed. The autographed card turned out to be Walt Poddubny who was at the event. This card meant more to me than every other card in my collection at the time because I could say I played hockey with that guy….even though it was only for one afternoon.

Here is a picture of Walt's rookie card. I have one of these and it is my favourite of all his cards.

Here is the autographed 89-90 OPC card my parents got for me.

A little more than 2 years ago Walt passed away suddenly. He was about the same age as my step-father who also passed away suddenly the following year. It is always tragic to lose someone at such a young age. For a period of three years Walt was a dominate force in the NHL scoring 116 goals in the time period. But I will always remember him as the kind man in the green satin jacket who made a few kids feel like stars for one afternoon.

Here is link to a nice obituary of Walt with a recent photo prior to his passing.


  1. What a nice autograph card and even better story behind it. Great post!

  2. great story, his passing was very sad. The autograph is a really nice keepsake from I'm sure one of the best days of your life!