Waiting Games

Being in the sports media gave one writer and broadcaster the opportunity to interview sports personalities he never imaged he’d even meet in places he never imagined he’d be. These will be his stories about their stories – or just about them – from the pages of his past, while working out of Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver through the ’60s and 70’s.

On many nights, Ken Dryden stood in the Montreal Canadiens dressing room and answered every question from reporters gathered around his locker. Just when he finished his last post-game interview, there was that one more reporter.

Me.

I waited because I didn’t want to share Dryden’s answers to my “brilliant” questions. The great goaltender would roll his eyes, then respond in the thoughtful and thorough way that is his trademark. Our interview was seldom short. He always seemed to think HE was the victim of this waiting game, but I was always doing the waiting.

Years later at a pre-game reception before the Canadiens’ final game at the Montreal Forum, I instinctively waited for him to finish with reporters — and I was only there to say hello.

When he saw me, Dryden winced.

“You again, Bob?”

After he retired and we both left Montreal, our contact was sporadic. It always included generous, almost-affectionate sarcasm — both ways — and I always learned something, about hockey or politics or the pandemic.

I don’t know him well, just well enough to know that his grandson is a goalie who imagines he is…Carey Price, that he’s not a candidate for Governor-General (my idea, not his) and that now he only skates on roller blades, along the Toronto waterfront. The last time we met, three years and two books ago, Ken The Author was in Vancouver taking questions about Game Change, his seventh book. A Hockey Hall of Famer, he has always maintained deep interest in The Game (the title of his most critically acclaimed work) and a deeper one in making his country better. He served seven years as a Member of Parliament, and his work as Minister of Social Development re-surfaced when Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget included a national child care program that evolved from Dryden’s defeated plan of 17 years ago: “It was heartbreaking we weren’t able to just fully go all the way then.”

If “his” child care plan becomes a reality, I imagine the Ken Dryden I know will think it means more than the hockey trophies, accolades and big games that made him a Hall of Famer.

He will have waited 17 years. He wins the waiting game.

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