The Best Day of My Life

By: Mike Dotto  

March 29, 2012 was by far the best day of my life. On this day, I was granted the opportunity to accompany a reporter while he covered the morning skate and game for the Toronto Maple Leafs. This was an absolute dream come true and to have this opportunity was just surreal. When we first arrived at the Air Canada Centre, we went town a tunnel past the Leafs’ dressing room.

Everywhere I turned, I saw TV and radio reporters. I was ecstatic. These individual are like celebrities to me. Then, all of a sudden, the Leafs players started coming out of the room. For the first time in my life, I was standing five feet away from my idols. In complete awe, I stood there watching with a grin from ear to ear. I couldn’t believe it. Only 10 minutes into the day and my expectations were already met.

I watched the Leafs’ practice for a bit as the cameraman grabbed filler shots from the glass and stands. About an hour later, the Philadelphia Flyers took the ice. To everyone’s surprise, legendary future hall of famer, Eric Lindros, was skating with the team. This was amazing and the chances of this ever happening again were slim to none. I will never forget what happened next.

Lindros passed the puck to Claude Giroux who one-timed it over the glass. The puck landed by my feet. As I picked it up, a familiar voice said, “Excuse me sir,” and gently moved me aside. It was none other than the General Manager and President of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke. Words cannot describe the feelings that over came me. I stood there smiling from ear to ear.

After practice, the members of the media were granted permission to enter the dressing rooms for scrum interviews. The reporter I was accompanying gave me the opportunity to hold the mic within the scrums. I was within inches of the players and actually was caught on TV by the NHL Network (see photo).

Fast forward to game time. I arrived at the Air Canada Centre about an hour before the game started. I will never forget the sensation in my heart as I opened the door for the first time and headed down to the media room. Once I received my media pass, I went exploring. I had access to absolutely everything. I was a kid in a candy, toys and video game store all at once.

Warm ups were occurring so I had the opportunity to watch the players from the glass. Out of nowhere, the starting goalie for the Maple Leafs was hit by a shot on the inside of his leg. He was down for a couple of minutes and was slowly helped off the ice. This was when I quickly ran around the corner to the Leafs’ dressing room to get a closer look at the injured goalie.

I was literately 10 feet away from the action. I will never forget what I saw at that moment. Two trainers were carrying the injured goalie, one under each arm, as he struggled to walk. It was as if a fallen solider was being taken to safety. With equipment and all, the goalie looked like a gigantic wounded transformer, straight out of the movies. The size difference was astonishing.

The two trainers were no more then 5’10″ while the injured goalie, known as The Monster, is listed at 6’5 on skates. It was a very eerie moment that immediately gave me goose bumps. After this experience, I took an elevator to the press box while passing by TV celebrities left, right and centre.

I met up with Barry Davis, the reporter I was accompanying, and watched the Leafs destroyed by the Flyers, 7-1. One moment in the game, the fans started cheering, “Let’s Go, Blue Jays.” Depressing for a die-hard Leaf fan, but funny, nevertheless.

After the game, we went into the Leafs dressing room. It was as if someone had died. I didn’t know if I could speak or if I should shake someone’s hand and say my condolences. We talked to a couple of players and, of course, they all admitted they were embarrassed by the performance. To make matters worse, this loss allowed them to reached the 50-day mark since the last time they recorded a win on home ice. It was just pathetic and the players were quite aware of their failures.

Despite the poor effort by the Leafs, I’ll remember: I had an opportunity of a lifetime and I embraced every moment of it as if it would be my last. Without a question or doubt in my mind . . . this was the best day of my life!

Go leafs!

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