The dream. The sound of blades cutting into ice in a near-empty arena at 6 on a Saturday morning. A couple of parents clutching their Tim Horton's coffee cups, watching their wide-eyed youngsters chase a frozen piece of rubber up and down the ice. Hockey at its grass-roots level. That's where the dream begins.
"My boy's gonna play in the Big Leagues ... my boy's gonna turn some heads."
And as the guitar riffs to Tom Cochrane's classic ditty faded out last night, the dream began again ... the dream of playing in the NHL ... the dream that is dreamt on so many frozen ponds ... the dream that so often dies, sometimes unfairly.
More than 7,000 players -- male and female, as young as 19, as old as 58 -- got a second chance to live that dream in a seven-city tryout that has been chronicled and will play out in the next 12 weeks on CBC's Making the Cut, which debuted last night.
'IDOLS WEAR SKATES'
"This is an opportunity to get the dream back," began CBC's Scott Oake. "It's fine to sing and dance, but in this country real idols wear skates."
Ah, the dream ... a vision for some players without a prayer and others with a purpose, plenty of prayers and a heckuva wrist shot.
"Being passed over for the NHL is only a problem if you give up," said Oake, pointing toward the success of undrafted players such as Mike Keane, Ed Belfour, Martin St. Louis, Curtis Joseph and Brian Rafalski.
And so as Making the Cut began the process to narrow the thousands down to 68, then to six who will get an NHL tryout, we watched and began rooting for our favourites.
- For guys like former Ottawa 67's star Dan Tessier, now 25.
"The biggest challenge for me has always been my size," said Tessier. "A couple of teams told me if I was two inches taller I could have been a first-round draft pick.
"I always said the NHL is probably the best league in the world, but they don't have the best players in the world.
"Hopefully, I get an opportunity and you never know what can happen."
- For guys like 35-year-old Todd Harkins, a second-round draft choice of the Calgary Flames in 1988 who scored three goals in 48 NHL games. He quit pro hockey -- for his son Niklas.
"I was concerned about my son," admitted Harkins. "He was five and he had MPS (mycopolysaccharidossis 1). Hockey to me was just a game ... and you'll give up a game to save your son's life.
"Now, all Niklas wants for his ninth birthday is for his dad to play in the NHL. My family is behind me 1,000%. I told my kids I was going to do it for them."
- For girls like Pictou, N.S., goalie Amy Ferguson, who helps her dad catch lobsters.
"When I was a kid, I wanted to play in the NHL," she said.
"It's a boy's game, but she wanted to play," added her father.
- For the brother-sister duo of D.J. and Teresa Marchese.
- For 40-year-old goalie Bob Unger.
- For 33-year-old fireman Billy MacGillivray of Surrey, B.C.
- For Konstantin Kalmikov, whose wife stood and sweated out every moment of his tryout.
In each city, there were debates on who should make the cut ... and who shouldn't. And we debated along with the evaluators, rooting for our own personal favourites.
TESSIER MAKES IT
When the phone calls came, for players like Harkins, Tessier and MacGillivray, the dream lived on.
For others, the dream abruptly ended, maybe just putting it on life support, perhaps until the next round of Making the Cut tryouts.
And in a time where a pall is cast over the hockey world because of the NHL lockout, Making the Cut was a breath of fresh air.
The dream goes on for Canadian hockey fans, too.