I had the pleasure of attending the Centennial Classic on January 1st with my girlfriend in the cold weather. Not only did we get those tickets for free, but we got free tickets to go skating on the ice the following day. My brother obtained a free pass too, so he met up with us downtown and we drove back to the rink. We got there pretty early, so we laced up our skates, observed and waited.
Looking up at the empty 35,000 seat stadium. Walking down the same walkway that the Leafs did. Standing on the Leafs bench. It was so surreal. I was so anxious to get on the ice, and hear my blades touch the freshly Zamboni’d ice. I stood at the front of the line beside the gate to go on. The second the security guard opened the door, I was on the ice. For those five seconds, I was skating on the ice – all by myself. I was in my own world. It felt unbelievable. It brought back childhood dreams of playing in the NHL in front of tens of thousands of people. This moment allowed me to go back to my dream, and just envision skating on that outdoor rink playing the game I love.
Now, back to reality. I didn’t realize so many people had the same opportunity as us. If I had to guess, I would say anywhere from 150-200 on the ice. A lot of people, but still a lot of room to skate, and enjoy it. My brother is a terrific skater, so he was fine on his own. My girlfriend doesn’t have that much experience, so I helped her throughout the day to improve her skills, and just remind her to let her know how lucky we were and how big a moment this is to a diehard Leafs fan to be skating on this ice. Thousands of people would die to have a chance like this.
It’s a day and a moment that I will never forget.