In May of 2014 I approached Guy Lafleur during the BMO Hockey Heroes event outside the Superior Propane Centre with an odd request.
I had been collecting autographs for awhile so the overwhelming nerves of meeting hockey heroes or legends had subsided, but this was different.
In August of 2013 I had found out that my longtime coach, mentor, colleague and friend Dale Turner was diagnosed with cancer.
The initial prognosis wasn’t good. For anyone that knew Dale Turner, they knew he would fight like never before and that’s exactly what he did.
In November of 2013 things were going well and Dale was inducted into the Moncton Sports Wall of Fame. In June of that year I was approached by his daughter Sarah to see if I would start the induction process. It was at that time that I was given a scrap book that Dale’s mother had made throughout his sports career. As I careful turned the pages I gained an even deeper appreciation for my mentors prowess. You see Dale Turner was one of the most humble and down to earth athletes you would want to ever meet. He had coached me what seemed like my entire life and never once did he ever tell stories of the past. I still had his scrapbook that August and I had sent a few messages Sarah’s way to see if I could return it, when Sarah sent me the shocking message about his diagnosis.
We exchanged emails from time to time but I didn’t see Dale after that night in November at the Wall of Fame ceremony. His speech that night was one for the ages. By the spring of 2014, things had took a turn for the worse. Sure I had sent some emails, but I wanted him to know how much he meant to me. I wanted him to know the impact that he had on my life.
Turner vs Lafleur
The old classic auditorium at Moncton High School was jammed packed. It was sweltering as per usual when Dave Blakney took to the podium. A hush came over the student body as Blakney paused before speaking. He had always had a humorous way with words, while getting his point across like no other. Dave started telling a story about a certain athlete on staff. It had all the makings of a Paul Harvey story. Believe it or not it had me second guessing who it was. You see “Brother” Blakney’s story that day was about the famed Quebec Remparts and the Charlottetown Abbies during the Memorial Cup play-downs.
By that time I had known Dale for over two decades and I had never heard this story. You could hear a pin drop in that auditorium by the time he had finished. Blakney had to explain to the kids how special Dale Turner was, and he had to explain to the generation how good Guy Lafleur was for them to fully understand the performance Dale had given during that series.
“You know something folks, our very own Mr Turner out scored Guy Lafleur in that tournament.”
A massive ovation filled the auditorium when Blakney had finished his introduction of his longtime friend.
I was shocked. I had no idea Dale had played against Lafleur let alone out score him.
A few years after that some of the guys from the Provincial Champion and Atlantic Hostess Cup Pee Wee AAA team decided to have a reunion and rent some ice. For two years straight we got together a few days before the Christmas break. One night we went out for a couple of drinks at the Old Triangle. We shared some stories, and I piped up to Dale’s chagrin and said, “tell them about the Memorial Cup play downs.”
Reluctantly, Dale started to share. It was like we were all back in the dressing room listening to a pre game pep talk before a massive game. As I looked around the table that night I was simply blown away to be part of such an amazing team and be coached by a man like Dale.
At the edge of our seats we hung on every word Dale talked about facing Lafleur and the atmosphere around the series.
That will be a night I’ll never ever forget.
An Odd Request
The sun was shining and I was nervous as hell on that day in May of 2014.
I had been waiting for a little while getting a couple of autographs when I saw Guy get out of the passenger seat of the BMO shuttle car. I remember looking my brother at the time and saying I’m going to ask him.
I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous.
“Hey Guy, it’s nice to meet you.”
“You used to play against my longtime coach and mentor, Dale Turner,” I said without hesitation.
Guy smiled, but I could tell he didn’t remember Dale’s name of hand.
In that moment I almost thanked him for his time and walked away. Obviously, he didn’t remember, until I told him a story that Dale had shared years earlier.
I told Lafleur that Dale had a special elbow pad made for the inside of his arm because Guy would slash him off the face off with the toe of his stick. Lafleur smiled.
In a split second I explained Dale’s situation and my intentions.
“I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind doing a little video message for Dale.”
“Sure,” Lafleur said.
“Hey Dale, I don’t know if you remember me, but it’s Guy Lafleur speaking, I would just like to wish you all the best, keep hope and hopefully you get better.”
He paused briefly and then continued to say.
“The good old days were something else, I remember it very well, I hope you go back in the past to and think about it.”
“It’s always a pleasure to be able to talk to you and take care, bye, bye.”
If I thanked Guy once I must have thanked him a thousand times within seconds of him finishing the video message. I asked Guy if I could get a picture with him that day, he said no problem with a massive smile.
That’s the type of person Guy Lafleur was.
He was always so giving of his time. Always had time for the fans for autographs and pictures no matter how strange the request was.
Lafleur was always so willing to give back to the game that he loved.
Dale Turner possessed all the exact same attributes.
We lost Dale in June of 2014.
In June of 2015 I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Hockey Canada Gala in Halifax by Sheldon Kennedy, Roland Vidal and Wayne MacNeil of Respect Group.
Out of the corner of my eye at a jammed packed Pier 21 I spotted Guy Lafleur. I felt compelled to share what his video meant to Dale and his family.
“Hey Guy I met you last year in Moncton, when you did a video message for my longtime coach and mentor Dale Turner.
“Yes I remember, how’s he doing?”
“Well, he didn’t make it,” I said.
“Oh I’m really sorry,” Lafleur said.
“You have no idea what that meant to him and his family,” I said.
“You have no idea what that meant to me personally, thank you so much,” I said.
You see like Dale Turner, Guy Lafleur was one of the most humble and down to earth athletes you would want to ever meet.
My thoughts go out to Guy Lafleur’s family, friends and all those that he has impact over the years on and off the ice.”