One of the chief qualifications for being a writer is, frankly, being nosy. I have been a writer almost all my adult life, so I have a nosiness level of Pinocchian proportions.
I spent the last week of January in California, as a guest of the very gracious people of VisitCalifornia. The intention was to do some research for travel articles, perhaps one piece on the Californian tech community (because our first stop was San Jose) but, first and foremost, to get material for a feature article I’m writing about the NHL’s 100th anniversary.
So they invited me to come to California to attend the NHL All-Star celebrations.
It’s a tough gig.
Between San Jose and Los Angeles, we spent some time in Anaheim; our visit included taking in an Anaheim Ducks-Edmonton Oilers game. I had to contain my delight, somewhat, when the Oilers slammed the Ducks, 4-0, backstopped by great goaltending from Cam Talbot. One does want to be a good guest, after all.
The Anaheim tourism folks — also great hosts — had arranged for media credentials for me, so I hit the Oilers’ dressing room after the game, where I got some time with Talbot — a polite young man, thoughtful and co-operative. Good stuff for my article.
But here’s where the nosy part comes in. I peered around a couple of corners (garnering a suspicious look or two from some of the security types) and to my surprise, spotted a face familiar to darned near every Canadian — the Great One, himself.
“Wayne,” I said boldly, “Could I get a few minutes to interview you?”
He could have said no, but he didn’t, and that interview will be the making of the article (which will be published later this year in Forever Young). Even though the team was ready to hit the bus to the next town (they played the next night in San Jose), and even though Wayne had a lot of responsibilities around the very imminent All-Star festivities, he graciously granted me an exclusive interview that must have approached 10 minutes in length.
There was even time for me to tell him about my “Breakfast with Walter” assignment, where I shared pancakes with Wayne’s own dad in his kitchen, as part of a feature story — and then, at Walter’s suggestion, I posed in Wayne’s sweaters from every team and All-Star outing he participated in. I don’t know which is cooler — that I got to try on the sweaters, or that my photos from that event were taken by Walter Gretzky himself.
Wayne laughed, and said some very warm things about his dad, and we concluded the interview.
But here’s the weird thing — I was nosy and brave enough to ask Gretzky for an exclusive interview, but not brave enough to ask him if I could grab a selfie to capture the moment.
Everyone does selfies, right? All the time, right? It’s now a more common request than an autograph.
But I couldn’t do it. Seemed unprofessional, I guess. Or, I’m a chicken. A chicken, right there in the home of the Ducks.
No matter. I have my interview, which will be the centrepiece of the article. I have those pictures of me in Wayne’s hockey sweaters, taken by Walter. And I have an autographed picture of Wayne, signed not only by the Great One, but, at my request, also signed by his great dad.
Being nosy may not be a virtue, but it’s certainly an advantage.