Friday, January 16, 2009

Plucked from the transactions: The year of living vicariously

It's not as if Troy Bodie's progress as a hockey player has been a major obsession, but seeing him pop up on The Canadian Press list of transactions was a gas last night.
ANAHEIM DUCKS–Recalled RW Troy Bodie from Iowa (AHL).
Poz, at some point, has probably covered how the "Transactions" listing in the sports section is one of the best parts of the newspaper. It basically compacts man's accomplishments and failures into very short sentences, printed in tiny type. It might seem as alien as the yearbook from a high school you didn't attend. For a beyond-saving sports nut, poring over the hirings and firings, the trades and demotions, seeing a familiar name pop out from time to time – the former major leaguer who's now managing in the low minors, the guy who played junior hockey in your hometown who's been called from the ECHL to AHL – is brain candy.

Bodie, a big winger who has been called up the NHL by the Anaheim Ducks, was a rookie as the same time as yours truly, so to speak. Bodie's first season in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets, 2002-03, coincided with someone else's first full-time job in print journalism at the Portage la Prairie Daily Graphic. Troy Bodie was a Portage kid and having a local boy in the Dub was a big deal for a town of 13,000 people, so we did stories on him from time to time.

It's not as if there was a lasting bond, just the standard jock-reporter conversation, one person trying to pull teeth and the other being polite but tight-lipped. We spoke when the Edmonton Oilers took him in the ninth round, 278th overall in the 2003 draft. The draft doesn't even have a ninth round anymore. He eventually owned up to the fact that around the age of five or six, his first replica jersey had been an Oilers one. It was a story that had to be done, but it didn't seem like a big deal. He was an 18-year-old who had played in only half Kelowna's games, and it he been drafted by the one-time NHL team of the Rockets coach, Mark Habscheid.

The following season, when Kelowna made its only visit of the season to Brandon to play the Wheat Kings, off I went to get a couple photos of Bodie to go with a feature story Keith Borkowsky was writing for the following Saturday

Going to a game to get photos of just one player can be feast-or-famine. Earlier that summer, I'd driven to Winnipeg to get photos of a local girl named Haylee Irwin who was playing in a Canadian women's fastpitch championship. She was playing third base, which meant taking a position on the first-base side, in hopes of getting a shot of her snagging a hot grounder and coming up throwing. Wouldn't you know it, Haylee Irwin got one ball hit to her the whole game – and it was foul. She made a great backhanded catch on it, jumping up against the screen in front of the dugout for the third out of the inning, but the photo was no good. The one Keith ran was actualy of her taking a warmup throw.

In the second period that night, though, I was positioned in the right wing corner of the Wheat Kings zone when Bodie, in his capacity as a big-bodied third-line grinder, collided with a Brandon player. Another Wheatie jumped in, the gloves came off, right in camera range. Seconds later, there were 5-6 half-decent photos on the card. None of them had a snowball's chance in hell of making it to print since the Daily G did not run photos of hockey fights as per the publisher's edict, but it chased away any fears of letting Keith down by coming back with lousy art. By the game's end, there was something in the can that was usable, and Bodie had picked up a goal and an assist to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick.

He only scored eight all season, but hey, shallow people believe in luck. Bodie sniped seven in the playoffs to help Kelowna win the Memorial Cup that spring – you could look it up. There are thousands of pro-calibre hockey players, though, and once the chance came to leave "the Mighty Plap," to move up the media food chain, Troy Bodie faded into the vast benign landscape of professional sports. Even with all the attention Puck Daddy has lavished on the Iowa Chops for their gimmicky logo and nickname, it never dawned that there was this tissue-thin, tangential connection to my old sports beat.

You move on, eh? Getting a blast from the past is a reminder that Portage was a very good place to be at the age of 26 and 27. The same goes for Simcoe and the Reformer from ages 27-29, although it requires the most accurate six-word coda going – it wasn't funny, at the time.

Who knows where any of us are headed. Troy Bodie is going to The Show. The Ducks play tonight in Pittsburgh and assuming he dresses, that means he'll have his name in the NHL Guide & Record Book. That alone should not put a smile on someone's face on the coldest night of the year, but it does.

1 comment:

Keith Borkowsky said...

An addition to Sager's report, one he wouldn't have known about. A couple of years ago, I ran into Troy's dad at a Brandon Wheat Kings game and he told me Troy was going to work in the oil patch for guaranteed money.

He had left hockey temporarily only to go back after.