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This One Time, At Development Camp

Michelle Thomas

Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Not even the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed.

In the days leading up to the 2013 Red Wings Development Camp, I joked that they might not let me back in this year after what happened last year. Now you'll hear the rest... of the story.

As I mentioned in my daily Camp posts, the format this year was different than in the previous years. Last year camp lasted longer and was stretched out through the day more. One of the events they did last year that they didn't this year was an autograph night downtown at the open space. All the prospects lined up at tables and fans could go and get stuff signed. It was a great idea, and I had wonderful plans to go get some autographs for myself and some friends. I went to practice in the morning/afternoon on the last day of camp, as usual, but I wasn't feeling well so I decided to take a brief (adj. 1. Short in time, duration, length, or extent) nap before heading downtown to the meet and greet. What I ended up taking was a "shit I slept way too long and NOW I MISSED THE MEET AND GREET AND AARRRGGHHHH NNNOOOOOOOOOOOO" nap. I was kind of pissed at myself and supremely disappointed. Now I have this friend, who I'll call Peter (because that's his name and I'm not changing it) who is a Phillippe Hudon fanboy... He told me he really wanted to get his stick and asked me to get one for him, but I said there was no way I was going to chase Hudon through the rink yelling "Please, I need your stick, I need your stick". I didn't tell him I was planning to get him Hudon's "Herbie Hancock" at the meet and greet, but he just so happened to text me (after I slept through the darn thing) and ask if I had got him Hudon's autograph. Wanting to oblige, it was time to come up with a plan.

The next day at work I was plotting and scheming, trying to figure out how I was going to get Hudon's autograph (and what to get it on). In the end I decided to get his autograph on his draft day picture. I wanted to get to the rink early, but that didn't happen because I got out of work late, so by the time I got to the rink the team was already on the ice warming up.

After the scrimmage, I went outside to the side entrance where the bus pulls up to take the players back to their hotel. I waited outside feeling like a creeper for an hour trying to figure out who he was and hoping to not miss him. All I had was his draft picture and I had only seen him in person while he was wearing hockey gear with his name on his back, so I didn't really know what he looked like. At first it wasn't too bad, there had been a couple families waiting outside for their kids to get autographs from the players as they came out, so I waited with them, chatting and having them help me watch for Hudon. After a while though, the other fans got the autographs they came for, I was the only one left standing there, and it started to get dark out. Players and staff were coming in and out of the building and the longer I stood there waiting and watching, the more like a creeper I felt. I watched player after player come out and get on the bus, and the equipment being loaded, then even some of the coaches walked past me and left in their cars. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach that Hudon had probably walked past me and I hadn't recognized him. I finally stopped Michael Babcock Jr. and asked if he knew if Hudon had already come out, or if he was still inside. He looked kind of confused but though Hudon was still inside eating dinner. Now, I realize how creepy this next part may sound, but I really didn't want to miss him when he came out. I asked Mini Babs if he knew what Hudon was wearing so I could make sure not to miss him when he came out. I wish I could show you a picture of Michael's face at this point, because it was a comical mix between surprise, confusion, concentration, and trying to decide if he should tell me or now. He did tell me what color shirt and hat he thought Hudon was wearing, but by his initial reaction when I mentioned Hudon, I'm not sure he knew who I was even talking about. There had been a guy walk by me earlier wearing what Babcock described, but I knew that wasn't Hudon because it was a player I actually did recognize.

The last few players and personnel trickle out, the bus was loaded up and they're getting ready to take off. Finally I walked up to one of the guys who was loading up the players and gear, and asked him if he knew the players and if Hudon was already on the bus or not. I explained to him that I was trying to get his autograph for a friend, which of course earned me some lighthearted ribbing about the existence of this "friend". He was kind enough to take the picture onto the bus, quiet everyone down for a moment and call Hudon up to the front. I stood at the bottom of the bus steps, and heard him call out for Hudon and say "come up here for a second, this lady needs your autograph"; which elicited a (seemingly deafeningly) loud chorus of "ooohhhhh" from what sounded like every single one of the other 21 players on the bus. I wanted to melt into the pavement and disappear. Hudon came to the front of the bus (not wearing what Babcock has described) and signed the picture. I waited at the bottom of the steps, thanked the gentleman for helping me out, and walked across the parking lot feeling like everyone was still staring at me. The good news is that I can definitely recognize Phillippe Hudon now.

I'm sure I'm not the only one to have an interesting, funny, or embarrassing adventure like this one. Who else has a story they'd like to share?