I apologize for my long absence, but between the various callings of summer (golf, summer hockey, sunshine, fiancee) and a rather crazy work schedule, I have neglected my poor little blog for quite some time. I shall however try to re-ignite the very modest flame I was able to start last season and hope to remain consistently blogging from now until at least the end of the season.
And through happy coincidence I get to make my return to blogging to talk about one of my favorite players, one Mike Comrie.
I have many many stories about the hometown boy everyone seems to love to hate. I remain convinced that a coach over player decision is what ultimately caused the situation that hurt this organization and Mike's career so needlessly (despite any indiscretions that may have led to his ultimate departure).
My first real knowledge of him came from my cousin, who was living in Creston at the time. I'd heard a little bit about the guy, but frankly was more interested in his brother Paul's play. Though Paul's career would be sadly cut short, Mike would dominate the WHL in a way few Oilers prospects, if any, ever have. My cousin told me of a night where, on the PK, Comrie circled the ice with the puck 3 times before going end-to-end and scoring. He was tearing the league apart and putting up an insane amount of points. I became convinced that this guy needed to be in Edmonton. We were sorely lacking a second line center at the time and I was convinced this junior gun was our man. I even started an insanely rudimentary website in the pre-blog days that commented on my campaign to sign Comrie as our second-line center.
The drama that went along with his initial signing surprised me at the time, but looking back on the era of real free agency and the lack of a cap or limited entry-level deals now, it is not surprising. I was simply glad the deal had gotten done, and was very excited to see the guy play.
Back then I didn't have season tickets, but I saved up and went with friends or by myself sometimes if they didn't have cash at the time. As luck would have it I attended the Detroit game where he scored his first goal and it was the winner. I still have the newspaper clipping from the next morning around somewhere. I was also in the building for his playoff OT winner against Dallas. That was something else. The building roof just tore off. I even had the perfect corner view of his toe-drag goal against Phoenix where the only thing my friend two rows down could yell for about five minutes was HOLY SHIT!!! This was pre-YouTube prominencey so I can't show you a clip to refresh the memory. At the time it was one of the best NHL goals I'd seen.
Little did I know that the excitement would be so short lived and that my Oilers 3rd jersey with COMRIE emblazoned on the back would be incorrect so suddenly. I remember watching him at the UofA camp the year he was traded. That man made all the other players on the ice (and there were many good ones) look like CHUMPS. He was in outstanding condition and really looked ready to have a monster season. That's what made the fact that Oilers had not even really offered the guy a contract even harder to take. I was so disappointed in my team. I really believe that he would've had his breakout year had he started that season for the Oilers. All the signs on that pre-camp ice pointed in a wonderful direction. I hadn't seen that kind of gear from an Oilers player in a long time.
It was not to be. Hatred from the fans soon followed. Mike was booed mercifully every time he returned. I'd always wear my #89 on those nights. Cheering for our guys but hoping Mike would score a couple to shut the fans up as well. All I could think about was how tragic it was for everyone involved that a possible hometown hero on a rejuvenated team could return us to success; or at least play a big part. Fernando Pisani nearly did it in '06, but Mike (and Paul frankly) should've been there too.
From the moment he left I'd said to myself "He'll be back. Probably when he's 35 and playing mainly as a checker who can still pop a few, but he'll be back. Redemption is a great story and that's how it'll turn out".
Well, it might happen a heck of a lot sooner.
Another chance Mike. Make everyone else believe. Some of us still do.
I'm betting he's an Oiler before camp starts, and I'm betting that by mid-season he's a top-six fixture who's getting cheered by the vast majority of the people.