Life in the minor leagues isn’t always glamorous. The CHL’s Baltimore Blue Claws learned that lesson the hard way this week, as they saw a simple bus ride turn into an ordeal that nearly ended in tragedy for one player.
On Monday, the Blue Claws played the Cleveland Centurions on the road and lost 2-1. The next night, they had a game at Harborside Arena. Rather than spend an extra night in the hotel and fly back the next morning, the Blue Crabs faced a six-hour overnight bus ride to get back to Baltimore.
Unsurprisingly, the long ride after a loss already had the team in a bad mood. But things went from bad to worse when the bus broke down outside of Pittsburgh at about 3:00 in the morning.
“A lot of guys were asleep,” said Blue Claws RW Alberto Fedregotti. “All of a sudden, the bus started making these terrible noises and we started to slow down. You could just hear everybody start to groan. We were thinking maybe we would need to hitchhike back to Baltimore.”
It took over an hour to summon a tow truck, and another forty minutes for a replacement bus to arrive. The team did not make it back home until around 10 in the morning, as the players staggered back to their houses for a few hours of shut-eye before reporting back to the arena for the game.
When they arrived, they received more bad news: The tow truck that hauled off the original bus got into an accident, causing the bus to plunge into the Allegheny River. Many of the Blue Crabs’ personal effects were still on the bus, so several players groused about the loss of their sticks, clothes, or jewelry.
D Sheldon Harville, however, feared for the loss of something even more precious: his childhood teddy bear, Mr. Fluffykins. Harville brought Mr. Fluffykins with him on every road trip he’d been on since high school as a good-luck charm. The bond between the two was practically unbreakable.
When he heard that his precious bear was likely lost, Harville “started having, like, a panic attack. I knew the guys would give me all kinds of grief if they found out what was up, though, so I tried to play it cool. But I was freaking out at the thought of not having Mr. Fluffykins anymore. He’s been with me so long that he’s like family. I’m supposed to be preparing for the game, and all I can think about is trying not to bust out crying.”
Fortunately, though, the story has a happy ending. The bus was rescued from the river and Mr. Fluffykins was retrieved, a little wet but none the worse for wear. “Thank God Mr. Fluffykins was okay,” said Harville. “If I’d lost him, I might have had to quit hockey.”
And despite their nightmarish bus ride and fitful sleep, the Blue Crabs managed to win that night’s game against the Oshawa Drive, 3-2. “It’s not really the kind of situation you can plan for,” said coach Roland Tedesco. “You can plan for what to do if your star player gets hurt or something. You don’t really have a plan for what to do when your team bus breaks down and one of your guys loses his lucky teddy bear. This is a strange life sometimes.”