MONTREAL - So now I've got to figure how I might expense even a side-dish of this delicious, wallet-denting evening, the product of my own big yap.
It seemed like a good idea at the time . . .
Just before 3 p.m. on Thursday, with a group of locked-out NHL players four hours from their Tournée des joueurs charity game at Quebec's Le Colisée Pepsi, I sent this on my Twitter account:
@arndog is the Twitter handle of Canadiens newcomer Colby Armstrong; @LaTDJ is the handle of the barnstorming Tournée des joueurs, which this week visited Rimouski and Quebec and rolls next week into Drummondville and Sorel-Tracy.
Armstrong, a summertime free-agent arrival, has even before his first Canadiens shift become a fan favourite for his sense of fun on the short-burst Twitter platform and for his eagerness to poke fun at himself — and his new teammates.
The 29-year-old native of Lloydminster, Sask., not only understands the value of social media, he's a guy who has a great time using it.
About 50 minutes after my first thinly veiled challenge to Armstrong, I shifted my Twitter fingers into gear while my brain was still in neutral.
I entirely missed the economy and symbolism of offering lunch at Lafleur's, the hot-dog landmark both easier on the budget and a nod to the Canadiens Hall of Famer who from 1969-71 scored 233 goals in 118 games for the Colisée-based major-junior Quebec Remparts.
No, I had to make it Moishe's, for my money (or The Gazette's, depending how this works out) the finest steak in the city.
A number of my Twitter followers, and others who follow Armstrong, picked up on the two tweets through the late afternoon and early evening, suggesting that @armdog surely was up for the challenge as they encouraged him to take his iPhone to the players' bench.
At 8:20 p.m., as the game progressed, I fired off this tweet:
Then, three minutes later, my disclaimer:
Given his silence throughout the day, it seemed that Armstrong had either not seen the challenge or didn't think it worth a reply.
But he was on Twitter, less than a half-hour before the faceoff tweeting a photo of himself standing between Guy Carbonneau and Jacques Demers with the text:
"My coaches for tonight! This is awesome! Growing up a habs fan as a kid this is pretty great."
The game finished without a photo and I figured I was off the filet-mignon hook. But then, at 10:21 p.m., came a marvelous shot on Twitter of Armstrong and fellow Team Montreal skater Mathieu Darche, taken by trainer Bruno Forest, mugging for the camera.
Armstrong's tweet, exactly as sent:
Darche corroborated the claim: The photo was taken at the start of the third period and was tweeted, though WiFi in the Colisée didn't get it out onto the network.
The three technicalities on which I could beg off:
It wasn't an action photo; it wasn't certifiably tweeted during the game; and it wasn't taken by Armstrong himself.
But how do I refuse to pay up on a challenge I've made to an unemployed hockey player who has taken his iPhone to the bench, during a game, and turned his back on the ice to pose with an equally goofy teammate?
(Settling the dinner tab of the cultured Darche, should he care to join us, is yet to be determined.)
"I'll be honest, it was Darchie who told me about your tweet," Armstrong said with a laugh Friday evening. "He said to me, 'You gotta do it. I'll get in there with you - let's get a dinner off Stubbsie!'
"So the start of the third period, I took my iPhone out to the bench and one of our trainers took a shot of the two of us. I tweeted it from the bench, but Darchie told me after the game it didn't go through. So I tried again in the dressing room and it still didn't go through. Finally it did, from the bus."
Armstrong was looking forward to an early night Friday, back home following a road trip worthy of junior hockey.
The Tournée des joueurs crew left Montreal Wednesday morning around 9:30 a.m., bused seven-plus hours to Rimouski, played there that night, immediately post-game bused three-plus hours to Quebec, played a regulation-length game Thursday night for an RDS telecast, hit a restaurant for a dinner that began serving near midnight, then boarded a 9 a.m. bus Friday for the trip back to Montreal.
"Oh my God, it took forever," Armstrong said of the trip, laughing again, his memories of his major-junior Red Deer Rebels road trips rekindled. "It was a great bus, but it was awful. The first three hours were kind of fun, but after that, (defenceman) Hal Gill just kept asking, 'Are we there yet?' "
Armstrong expects to play one of the two games next week, his parents coming in to visit and his father keen to see his son compete in an old community barn.
"But there are a lot of locked-out guys," he said. "I'll be happy to sit out a few games and let some other boys get a few twirls for the fans."
Armstrong has not, he said, ever been to Moishe's, though he's heard the stories.
He'll soon have some tales of his own from just the dills and the cole slaw, before he ever carves into a free steak he'll be able to cut with a fork.
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