On Wild game days I generally get to downtown St. Paul between 4:00 and 4:30, and circle Rice Park and the adjacent streets waiting for a parking spot to open. Today I was a little early, a few minutes before 4:00, and someone pulled away just as I pulled up, so I got the easy, early parking spot.
Which is why I was wandering into the X a couple minutes after 4:00, when I don't need to be there until about 5:15. As I walked past the Herb Brooks statue and towards the building, I noticed two men to my left, standing in the cold, chatting. I did a double take when I realized the men were Jacques Lemaire and Mario Tremblay!
Lemaire, of course, was the coach of the Wild for the first eight seasons, and Tremblay was his assistant. They now have the same jobs with the New Jersey Devils, and tonight was their first time back in St. Paul since leaving the Wild.
My respect for Lemaire is well documented - see the April 11 and April 13 posts of last year - and he's now doing a fantastic job with the Devils, leading them to the top of the Eastern Conference. I kept on walking into the building, but stopped after a moment and realized this was a chance I might never get again: The chance to say thank you.
So I went back into the cold, approached them and said, "Hi fellows. I don't want to bother you, but I just wanted to say welcome back, and thank you for everything you did for us."
They both smiled, shook my hand, and then Jacques noticed my name badge and said, "Thank you, Tim," in that funny little clipped French accent of his. I turned and walked away, because I didn't want to intrude on the conversation, but that was enough. It just really felt really good to say thank you to someone to whom I feel indebted. Merci beaucoup, coach.