As the Sundogs 2012- '13 regular season came to an end on Saturday night, it also ended my fifth season working with the team.
For those of you who don't know, during the off-season between the team's championship second year and season three, I became the team's photographer.
Five years and many thousands of photos later, I'm still here, but many Sundog faces have come and gone.
During this time, I have met some pretty interesting folks, some hockey-related, some Tim's Toyota Center-related, and many, many fan-related.
Early on, I got a kick out of one particular family, the Pietroniros. Dad Marco was the team's first head coach and also served as general manager for a time.
The Pietroniros have, I think anyway, four kids, or maybe five, but it seemed like 10.
All boys, and these guys ruled the arena.
I would usually arrive at least a couple of hours before game time and these kids would be everywhere - helping in the locker room, with practice, pre-game warm-ups, everything.
I always enjoyed watching them, thinking "what a great life." Hockey was in their blood and here they are surrounded by it year-round.
They were like Tim's Toyota Center royalty - the princes of the rink.
As the younger guys grew a little older, it was fun watching them strut the arena, cooler than the ice, but still acting like kids in a candy store.
I was talking to someone the other day and I mentioned that I miss seeing how these kids owned the place, and what a great way this was to grow up.
The person I was talking with gave me an odd look and said, "Yeah, like your kid."
And then it hit me - my son literally has grown up at Tim's.
He's 3 years old now, born just before the 2009-10 season started.
He attended his first game that season, only a few months old, and while I haven't actually sat down and counted, I think he's only missed four or five games since.
He can recognize the players from their photos (looking at the computer screen yesterday he said "Good game Brownie"), he knows more about the game than I do, he was able to pronounce "Chipchura" and "Tulupov" before me, and he's developing some pretty mean YMCA and Chicken Dance moves.
I draw the line at Gangnam Style - if he starts, he will be disowned.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, good for you - if you do and you think I'm being too harsh - shame on you, you have no taste and shouldn't be allowed near children.
A few days back, my son was able to sit in on his first official team photo, he's learned to count backwards by screaming "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, LETS GO SUNDOGS!" and he's advancing his vocabulary after watching new coach Scott Muscutt run practice the other day.
He's on a first name basis with several security guards, ushers, and Jimmy Cabral, who serves up a mean chicken strip meal deal (shameless plug in search of free food from Gabby's Kitchen, the official food vendor for the Arizona Sundogs, the CHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyote's- now a shameless plug in search of a free jersey or any other swag shameless plugs can get ya').
I'm not sure if these qualities are a good thing or not, but one thing for sure. If I stay on with the team, my son's going to have some great memories about growing up around hockey players, having a 5,000 seat arena as his own personal playground, and, after next week, memories of the 'Dogs winning the playoffs.
And hey, how cool is that?
Posted: Saturday, March 30, 2013
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