On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
a hockey dreamcome true and a red Calgary Flames jersey
As promised, Peter Arsenault is here to share his wonderful story of spending time with Carmen and the Calgary friends. Thank you Peter for giving so generously of your day-off to make this happen for Carmen!
Many of you know what I speak of when I mention the game of hockey and what it means to each of us. For me it is a way of life. Growing up in a small town where the community gathered regularly at the local rink was the norm. So when I hear others speak so passionately about the game, I can relate on so many levels.
When I first heard the news that Carmen Giroux’s Christmas wish was to get a Calgary Flames Miikka Kiprusoff jersey, I must say I was not surprised. For as long as I have known Carmen I have known his passion for the Flames and the great Canadian pastime. When the opportunity was presented to me to accompany Carmen and the Global News crew on a surprise visit to the Scotiabank Saddledome for a Flames practice, I must say I was quite honored to be able to tag along.
Carmen learned that the folks at Global News were very intrigued with his story and wanted to do whatever they could to make his Christmas wish come true. I spoke with Carmen the day before and made him aware that I would be joining him. His response was “right on bro” followed by a high five. He was so excited and told me that he couldn’t sleep all night, just like a child at Christmas.
Friday morning was the perfect day. It was cold and there were light flurries in the air. Children were skating around and having a wonderful time. Carmen told the news crew about losing his hands to frostbite after a three day binge and passing out on a park bench with temperatures well below freezing. One of the comments Carmen made, which really caught my attention was when he talked about coming to Olympic Plaza to skate. He said, “I used to come here and skate. It was like…. It was like I was free.” Strong words that I can certainly relate to. If there was ever a place where I felt completely at ease it was on a sheet of ice.
When we arrived at the Saddledome, Carmen was elated and I have to admit so was I. All the stars were there, Iginla, Jokinen, Tanguay, Conroy, just to mention a few. Oh, and of course Carmen’s idol Miikka Kiprusoff. Aside from media and Flames Public Relations people, the Saddledome was completely ours. Carmen approached the glass and cheered when his idol “Kipper” would make a save. At one point I sat down with Carmen for a bit and we talked about how cool the experience was for both of us.
Near the end of he practice Carmen was asked if he would like to go for a tour of the dressing room. Carmen’s eyes lit up like headlights on a vehicle. “Sure”, he said. The suspense of waiting in the hallway before access was granted was almost unbearable. Carmen’s words before meeting Kiprusoff were “My head is just spinning. I don’t even know what I’m going to say to him.” I was so happy for him.
Finally, the time came and when we entered the room “Kipper” was the first person Carmen laid eyes on. Overwhelmed and elated would be the appropriate way of describing Carmen’s reaction in the moment. “Kipper” saw the excitement in Carmen and made him feel very welcome. “Kipper” presented Carmen with his number 34 jersey which was easily the highlight of the day. Carmen jumped up and down with excitement asking “Kipper” if he would please sign it. After Miikka signed the jersey and gave it to Carmen he responded by saying, “you’re the greatest man”. By this time Carmen had the attention of almost everyone in the room. The rest of the players watched as Carmen made his way around getting autographs from other great players like Olli Jokinen, Matt Stagan and Craig Conroy. Witnessing the joy that was brought to Carmen on this day was something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
I didn’t want the experience to end and I know Carmen didn’t either but the time finally came for us to head back to the DI. Some of Carmen’s final comments before leaving the rink were “Oh my God, it’s like I’m in a dream…like I’m not really here.” Perhaps none of us will ever know how much of an impact this experience had on Carmen but one thing is for certain, he was in his “glory”.