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Darkest Before the Dawn

"It’s always darkest before the dawn." I can vouch for that, and you can bet I’ll never forget it again.

On March 5, 2000, as I watched the Stars play the Red Wings on ESPN, I eagerly anticipated my annual visit to Dallas, only 17 days away. Midway through the second period, Guy Carbonneau skated off the screen, and somewhere off camera he got his hand caught in Kirk Maltby’s jersey. The jersey snag fractured Carbo’s wrist and likewise my dream of seeing him play in Dallas. I struggled with despair, wondering if I might never see him play with my own eyes again. (See also Reflections on Carbo's Injury.)

If only some guardian angel could have whispered in my ear, "Hey Diane, there’s something you should know. Did you see that stick Guy was using in the game? In three weeks that Sher-Wood will be hanging in your kitchen."

Darkest before the dawn…gotta remember that.

The first glimmers of morning light tinged my heart a couple of weeks later. Reports were that the wrist was healing well. And yes, Guy made a fantastic recovery and was cleared to play just in time for our trip. It was a miracle, I was thrilled, I would get to see him in practice as well as two games!

But as we took off for Dallas, I had a new quandary. Was there any way I might get to speak to him, during this visit that might be my last? I took my two game-worn Carbo jerseys to Thursday practice, hoping for divine intervention.

What I and my companions found was that the viewing gallery was closed that day. Another stroke of bad luck! But the light in the east continued to grow, and divine intervention appeared in the form of Assistant GM Doug Armstrong, who took pity on us and let us watch practice from the lower level. What a thrill! A full practice, complete with scrimmage, by the Stanley Cup Champions, viewed from ice level. And flying among them was the man about whom I had written thousands of words without saying a single syllable to his face.

It was glorious, and my head spun joyfully as it always does after watching a Stars practice, but what next? We lingered in the Stars Stuff store, a little aimlessly, when who should appear but another visiting angel: Stars play-by-play announcer Ralph Strangis. We struck up a conversation with one of our favorite broadcasters, and finally I had the courage to tell him of my plight. He advised we wait outside where the players left in their cars. It was a plan…

But when we went out to the lobby, we found it was pouring rain outside. Always, as I must repeat, darkest before the dawn.

Ralph found us, perplexed and forlorn, and said he needed to go back to the dressing room. He would tell Guy I was there. Ralph returned a few minutes later with instructions from Carbo to wait there in the lobby, and he would come. And a few minutes after that, the door opened again.

Prettiest sunrise I’ve ever seen.

You might think I had imagined this scenario quite a few times in resplendent detail, and you would be right. You might think I dreamed of having a few photographs of myself talking to Guy Carbonneau about his sweaters, right again. You might think I imagined him smiling, being kind, taking all the time in the world to speak with me, making me actually believe he was pleased about his website and delighted to meet me at last, and of course you’re right again. You might think I most certainly set myself up for disappointment and there was no way this rendezvous could live up to my expectations.

Dead wrong there, bucko.

This is Guy Carbonneau, so of course, it was better than my expectations. It all happened, all of it and more. And then he asked me to come back so he could give me that Sher-Wood. As if he needed to give me anything else.

During our visit to Dallas I saw three glorious practices, two awesome hockey games, and spoke with Guy a total of four times. During our visit to Dallas I also put behind me my fears that I might never meet this great man, and replaced them with the conviction that I haven’t seen the last of him. I left Dallas with Guy Carbonneau’s Sher-Wood UPS-ing its way to my kitchen wall. I left Dallas also with the matching gift he gave me: the feeling that I had actually done something to repay him for all he’s meant to me. Bless you, Guy.

So remember that lesson, friends: It’s always darkest before the dawn.

As for me, I feel like the sun is never going to set.

Photos by Brad Amodeo


See also:

Notes from an Underground Fan (a guest editorial by Martha Trueheart, 3/29/00)
330 Days Later: Reunion in Kanata (2/22/01)
Interviews with the Canadiens jersey, originally in "Hockey Snacks," reprinted with permission by Blogging Carbo)