Sports reporters and hockey legends

After years of trying, I finally have something in common with a sporting legend.
The celebrity I’m referring to is none other than former National Hockey League mega-star Mario Lemieux.
Now I’m certain most of the readership currently is scratching their heads and wondering what an overweight sports reporter in Fort Frances can possibly have in common with the player widely regarded as the second-best of his generation behind only “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky.
But before I divulge our common bond, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my long and storied history with “Mario the Magnificent.”
In truth we’ve only ever met once, but it was a memorable encounter—if only to my friends who still bring it up from time to time.
I just happened to be home in Ottawa the night prior to the NHL entry draft in 2005—phenom Sidney Crosby’s draft. My friends and I were downtown enjoying a few beverages when a ripple of excitement began to circulate throughout the room.
The cause of the excitement? The arrival of none other than Lemieux and his entourage. Now the first question that came to mind as I stood there watching the group order drinks was—what is Mario Lemieux doing out so late the night prior to what many are calling the biggest day in Penguins’ franchise history?
Looking back now, it all makes perfect sense to me.
Why wouldn’t Lemieux and the front office get out and have a little fun on the town prior to the draft? It’s not like they didn’t know how they were going to use the pick.
So there I stood, watching him when one of my buddies suggested I go talk to him.
Great idea.
Here was my opportunity to ask a legend about some of the defining sports moments of my lifetime. And what did I say to Mario? “I dare you not to draft Crosby tomorrow morning.”
Lemieux was gracious enough to shake my hand before he turned all 6’4”, 230 pounds of himself around and walked away.
So yeah—“Super Mario” and I go way back.
Which brings us back to the common bond I share with Lemieux. Just about the same time Lemieux retired from playing in the NHL for the second time due to an irregular heartbeat, I was diagnosed with an arrhythmia.
For those of you not familiar with the inner workings of the human heart, it basically means we both have electrical problems in the old ticker.
But while Lemieux opted to treat his problem with medication, I’ve decided to have corrective surgery. So next Wednesday, I’m going under the knife in Toronto. And to be honest with you, I’m pretty excited.
For years I’ve been dealing with a problem I didn’t even know I had. I thought it was normal for your heart to occasionally beat erratically when playing sports.
I can remember being 13 years old, sitting on the end of the bench during a hockey game, and having to skip a couple of shifts while I waited for my heart to slow down.
As I’ve grown older, it’s started happening more often. I convinced myself that I was just getting fat and that a little exercise would solve the whole problem.
I finally decided to get it checked out after my heart went crazy one day while I was sweeping my apartment—not exactly the most athletic of endeavours.
After a battery of tests, the doctors discovered I have sporadic episodes of abnormal heart rhythms caused by errant electrical signals which form “short circuits” and fast heart beats.
Got all that? Good, me neither.
The good news is the surgery I’m scheduled for—a catheter ablation—is a relatively simple procedure and it’s roughly 95 percent effective. It also happens to be one of the few procedures in modern medicine that will actually fix the problem permanently.
In other words, a week from today I should be cured.
But despite my excitement surrounding my imminent good health, I do have one little regret—I won’t have anything in common with Lemieux anymore.
I think both my long-suffering mother and I can live with that, though.

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