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Super Blog is Finally Here

08 Apr 2005

April 1st:

I left for Toronto at 11:30pm on March 31st and arrived in Toronto early on April 1st. I’d actually planned on fooling y’all with an elaborate April Fool’s day blog but I never had the time. My brother Mike picked me up from the airport and took me back to his place since he lives really close to the airport. I was able to get a few hours of sleep there and then got the call from Chris Kontos (EX-NHL’er Tampa Bay Lightning) .

Chris and his brother George picked me up at my brother’s house and we made the 45 minute drive over to Hamilton The Sheraton was one of the sponsor’s of “Our Game to Give” so most all of the players stayed there.

I checked into my room “911”, threw my bags down and then head to lunch with Chris and George. I hadn’t had a Mr. Sub in ages so that was the first place I went to in the food court. I realize that the special sauce is pretty much Italian dressing, but man they do it up right!

After lunch I had time for a quick shower and then it was time to meet some of the guys. The plan for the evening was to meet at the bar at the Sheraton for drinks, head over to the Hamilton Club for a fancy dinner, and then hang out at Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt’s house and play some poker.

At the bar I ran into Eric Brewer, Mike Comrie, and Steve Montador. All of whom seemed like genuinely good guys. I was a little shocked to see how small Comrie was, but man can that guy play some hockey. Without question one of the best pair of hands in the league.

After a couple of beers we head towards the limos waiting outside the Sheraton. As soon as I exited the building I was absolutely bombarded with autograph and picture requests. These guys must have been waiting outside the hotel all day for this.

They had clip board, Sharpies, and 8 by 10’s ready to be signed. I signed a few here, and I signed a few there. One guy had five 8 by 10’s all lined up for me. “Who do you want me to sign these to?” I asked.

“Oh that’s ok, just sign em’’” He replied. I was already extremely suspicious about the whole ordeal, but that confirmed for me that these guys were trying to turn a quick buck on E-Bay.

I signed five for this one guy and a minute later he asks me to sign five more! Did he think I wouldn’t recognize him? He was this tall dude with a red beard and a red jacket for Heaven’s sakes!

The most surreal thing about the whole ordeal was that the hockey players just went straight into the Limos unharmed. It was right then that I realized, “Wow, poker has really arrived!”

I signed as many as I could but the limos were ready to leave so I missed several people. Over the next few days those guys would be camped out there though looking for more autographed pictures. Eventually it forced me to make a new policy, “I’ll sign one of them” and I tried to stick to it.

Normally I don’t mind signing autographs at all, but this felt really dirty. The guys outside saw me in the hotel and would chase after me as I head to the restaurant inside the Sheraton. I honestly felt yucky about it all.

At dinner I was seated beside Terry Crisp and had no idea how hilarious he was! Man, he is a bundle of energy and had me rolling throughout dinner. Nick Kypreos was across from me, Marty McSorley, Wade Redden (who I’ve had in my pool since he was 18 years old), Mike Vanderjagt, Danny McManus, Paul Maurice (coach of the Hurricanes and the East team for the event), Jason York, Eric Brewer, Mike Comrie, Steve Montador, and several others.

We ate in a private room and the food was delicious. Once dinner was over we piled back into the limos and planned on heading over to Vanderjagt’s house. On the way we had to pick someone up, none other than the best goaltender in the world, Martin Brodeur whom I’ve also had on my fantasy team for the last seven years. Inside our limo was a who’s who of Canadian hockey.

We finally made it to Vanderjagt’s house…wow. Wow, wow, wow. His pad was absolutely incredible. Aside from the fact that he had uprights right there on his lawn, indoors was like Never Land for sports fans and kids alike.

A half court parquet floored basketball court, complete with framed jerseys on the far wall: Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and LeBron James. Beat that collection! On the other side of the basement was a full fledged golfing range, workout room, arcade games, a display of autographed footballs, pool tables, and a casino room fully equipped with a phony eye in the sky!

Needless to say I was in awe. He has the ultimate bachelor pad to say the least. Most of us settled in and around the basketball court shooting threes. Now this was an awesome collection of hockey talent, but let’s just say that watching them shoot hoops was like watching Americans play hockey!

In about a three minute span of constant shooting from all angles, the rim barely moved. In fact, many of the shots never even hit the backboard! My final though on that whole ordeal was: stick to hockey boys.

The party was going great and finally Mike asked me to help run a little poker tournament for the guys. There were prizes for the winner and a little pocket cash to boot. We only had one table really, and about 20 guys wanted to play. So I came up with the following format:

10,000 in starting chips with 100-200 blinds. The blinds would double every round and when there were five left at a table they would advance with the chip count that they were left with. Then the second ten would sit and do the same leaving one final table of 10

I played in the second heat and decided to help the game move along quickly so I dealt for the first heat. I wasn’t there to win really, so when my heat started I played really fast and Jason York made a sick call of my bluff with fourth pair! Remind me to not try and bluff hockey players.

As the game went on, a friend of Vanderjagt’s named Donavan Bailey dropped by. If that name sounds familiar to you it’s because in his prime Donavan Bailey was arguably the fasted man in the world.

The event came down to Mike Vanderjagt, Ken Hadell (the organizer of Our Game to Give), and Nick Kypreos who hit a few miracle cards along the way. Nick’s luck ran out though and it was down to the owner of the house and the organizer of the event. A fitting end I would say.

Vanderjagt ended up taking it all, defending his home turf. By the time it was over it was already 3:00am and these guys had a game to play. The limos picked us up and we all head back to the hotel.

April 2nd:

I spent a few hours on the phone the night before and didn’t get to bed until pretty late. I was supposed to head over to the arena at about 4:30pm but wanted to be well rested for my coaching debut of the East team. Ok, so I was just tired but it sounded good.

My agent Brian Balsbaugh (www.pokerroyalty.com) made the trip to Toronto with me and we headed over to the Ivor Wynne Stadium together at around 6:00pm. By that time the players were already warming up in the pre-game skate.

When I got to the dressing room I noticed a #93 Jersey hanging near the entrance with the name “Negreanu” on it. That was pretty cool. It was way to cold to go with just the jersey though so underneath it I wore a T-Shirt, sweater, sweater jacket, and a leather jacket. That may sound a little extreme but man, it was absolutely freezing out there and I’m 142 pounds soaking wet.

My “locker” was right next to Martin Brodeur’s, the greatest goaltender in the world. Paul Maurice (coach of the Carolina Hurricanes) was the coach of the East team, but of course he’d have to defer to me for all the important decisions.

Also joining us on the East bench would be Brett Lindros, brother of Eric. What happened with Brett was an absolute tragedy. Just after signing a long term contract with the NY Islanders his career was cut short due to severe concussions.

To get to the bench we had to walk across the ice while the players were still practicing. Terry Crisp and I walked over together, but I got hacked on the way over by Steve Rice of the opposing team, AND Chris Kontos whom I should have benched since I was his “boss.”

Here is what the East squad looked like:

Ken Hadell (the organizer)
Doug Gilmour
Bob Probert
Gary Roberts
Joe Niewendyk
Chris Kontos
Todd Harvey
Scott Walker
Steve Thomas
Ric Natress
Darcy Tucker
Bryan Mcabe
Adam Graves
Nick Kypreos
Joe Cirella
Randy McKay (inj)
Mark Bell
Wade Redden
Martin Brodeur

And here was the West team:

Mike Vanderjagt
Steve Rice
Mike Comrie
Steve Staios
Rob Blake
Marty McSorley
Eric Brewer
Brad May
Shayne Corson
Matthew Barnaby
Mike Peca
Ryan Smyth
Jason Smith
Kris Draper
Mike Gartner
Todd Bertuzzi
Nelson Emerson
Steve Montador
Curtis Joseph

In the early going it looked like Mike Comrie was carrying the puck on a string. He is an amazing player to watch, the way he cuts his way through the defense. The West team got the early lead but the East kept coming back.

At one point in the game I made a boo-boo of sorts. Steve Rice of the West team received a breakaway pass and scored top shelf against Brodeur. Now I’m supposed to be rooting for the East team, but Steve Rice is a really great guy and it was cool to see him score. I raised my arms and yelled, “Yeah… I mean oops?” Some coach huh?

It was 5-4 with the West in front after one period. We head back to the dressing room and I can only imagine that the atmosphere was a little different than your typical NHL game. Beers were flowing and hot dogs were being scarfed down one after another. Again, I’m assuming that’s not how they normally prepare in between periods!

By the second period it was really coming down hard. The rain quickly turned to snow and their were puddles forming on the ice. I was just amazed with the dedication that the fans showed. 20,000 sat through the entire game just lovin’ it.

The East took their first lead late in the third period at 7-6. A few more quick goals and I cruised to my first ever win as a coach, 11-8 *Sigh* I think I might retire undefeated. 1-0 makes me the most successful coach in hockey history I would imagine. Might as well go out on top right?

After the game we headed over to Filthy McNasty’s. Yes, that’s right, I said Filthy McNasty’s which is a local bar in Hamilton. There was a VIP section that was supposed to be for the players but it ended up being more crowded than the rest of the bar!

It was at Filthy McNasty’s that I had a rendez-vous with a childhood hero of mine. I think the only autograph I ever asked for was when I was about 11 years old. It was at the train station in downtown Toronto that I saw Rick Vaive, then captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs catching a train to Montreal. I ran to him and asked for his autograph. Of course I didn’t have a pen for him to use, so he told me he’d come back through the train later and sign one for me.

It was a school trip to Quebec City and I told every one of my friends that Rick Vaive was going to come back here and sign autographs for us. He never showed, but I wasn’t upset in the least.

So almost 20 years later I got a chance to tell him that story. When I’m finished telling Rick the story, he pulls two Sharpies out of his pocket and says, “That used to happen to me all the time. That’s why I carry these around with me ever since.”

Rick signed a hat for me and in turn I signed one for him. That was a very bizarre moment to say the least!

It had been a long night already so Brian and I decided to leave the bar a little early since we had a few things to do the next day.

April 3rd:

Again I spent several hours on the phone the night before and I tried getting to some e-mails. I ended up waking up at around 2:30pm and I had my good buddy Gord the Limo driver come and pick us up in Hamilton. Gord was there in a flash and got us to Toronto in a jiffy.

Once there, I showered at my brother’s place and head straight for downtown to do a live show on The Score, a sports network in Canada.

That went well and from there Gord took us to an International Poker Tour Event to meet with Rick Silver, the man that was gracious enough to loan me his limo while I was in town. The event was at Hooter’s which I’d only been to once before in my life. That is a strange place to say the least, but that’s another story!

We spent some time there and got home for some much needed rest. I hit some e-mails and got a few hours sleep for what would be a big day.

April 4th:

11:30am: I was downtown at the Peel Pub to do an interview with CBC.

2:00pm: I head down the road to do a radio interview with AM 640. I was met there by the winner of the Red Hot Poker Tour’s Tournament of Champions Winner

4:00pm: We drove over to the set of Off the Record with Michael Landsberg. This was my third appearance on the show and was the most bizarre to say the least. Former MLB pitcher “Spaceman” Bill Lee was on the show with me and was quite the character to say the least.

Now throughout the day a film crew from CityTV/Star followed me around as they are planning on doing a piece on me. Strangely enough the producer of the segment was an old friend of mine that I’d known for over 10 years. In fact, the whole piece was mostly her idea.

5:00pm: Brian needed to get back to Las Vegas on a 7:00pm flight so we really had to get moving since it was rush hour. Brian asked several people how long it would take to get to the airport and they all told him about an hour. We asked Gord Andretti the limo driver? He said he could get us there in 30 minutes. Sure enough, at 5:31 Brian was at the airport.

6:00pm: My next stop was another IPT event at 8:00pm, so Angie (the producer) and I grabbed a bite to eat at a random bar and grill.

8:00pm: I made it to the event on time and signed about 250 autographs and took about 50-60 pictures. There was one inspirational story that I wanted to share from the event: A younger gentleman explained to me that his father was a shut-in and hasn’t left the house in years. Yet, he watched poker on TV all of the time and when he heard I would be there he finally came out of the house.

I encouraged him to attend the events regularly, and I encouraged both of his sons to drag him out of the house for them. Both the Red Hot Poker Tour and the International Poker Tour are totally free events. No gambling whatsoever, which further proves my point that poker shouldn’t necessarily be synonymous with gambling. People just love the game, the camaraderie, and the overall atmosphere of the events.

I think of that young man’s father and it just reinforces for me that poker has so many positive benefits that we should all focus on rather than always harping on the negative.

After we wrapped up there I head for home planning on taking an early flight back to Vegas.

April 5th:

The flight was way too early and I slept in. Since it didn’t look good for a flight that evening I decided to hook up with some friends and go to dinner. We ate at Rosa’s “something” and had an awesome Italian meal. That’s probably my single most favorite food.

Since I wasn’t even supposed to be in town, the only media I did on the 5th was a short radio interview with Bob McCowan over at the Fan590.

April 6th:

I flew back to Las Vegas. The customs lady I ran into at the Toronto airport was totally nuts. I tried to make her smile, using every weapon in my repertoire but she was a tough crowd. I tried all of my best material, but nope. She was wound way too tight.

The flight had turbulence issues the whole way there. I waited for food service but it never seemed to come? Finally I asked the steward and he told me there was no food on the flight. So much for the comforts of sitting in first class, my goodness! Luckily the gentlemen next to me had some trail mix to tide me over.

My brother picked me up at the airport and I head straight for home. It was too late to make it over to Mike Matusow’s “coming out” party so I met with E-DOG over at my place to play some Golden Tee. He gave me one quick pointer that had me driving the ball 10 to 15 yards longer. I’m just going to crush my assistant Travis now (not like I hadn’t already been crushing him.)

April 7th:

Today was all about vegging out. I spent the day playing Golden Tee, watching TV, answering some e-mails, and talking on the phone.

Sorry that I didn’t update the blog this week, but I was really just swamped and too tired to devote anytime time to it during my Toronto trip. Now that I’m home for a good stretch of time I should be able to get around to it almost everyday.


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