TULSA, Okla. – Sometimes it’s the small gestures that mean the most. That’s something Pro Hockey News’ John Hall has found out after a life-changing experience this summer. Hall, who works as a police dispatcher in Mannford, Oklahoma, was on duty Saturday, August 4th when he learned that one of more than a dozen wildfires burning across northeastern Oklahoma was heading straight for his home. “My mother who lives up the road, called me and said I needed to get around and get what I could and just be ready because the fire was coming from the west,” Hall told Tulsa’s KJRH News. It wasn’t long before he received word that his neighborhood had been devastated by the fire.
One of the items Hall lost in the fire was a hockey stick autographed by four-time Olympic medalist Angela Ruggiero, who made several U.S. professional hockey “firsts” on January 28, 2005, when she played for the Oilers against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. That night, Ruggeiro became the first woman to actively play in a regular season professional hockey game in the United States at a position other than goalie. In addition, since her brother Bill Ruggiero also played for the Oilers, they were the first brother-sister combination to play professionally at the same time. Hall treasured the stick but along with many other things, he considered it to be one of the things he’d never see again. Enter Hall’s good friend and Pro Hockey News photojournalist Les Stockton. “I was always envious of that stick and after the fire, I asked the Oilers office if I paid for a new stick, could they contact Angela and get her to sign it as a replacement,” Stockton said. The team did him one better. Oilers Business Manager and Director of Game Operations Jessica Adams contacted Hall and asked if he would be interested in dropping the ceremonial first puck at the annual alumni game at the end of August, intimating that the organization had a surprise for him also.Unfortunately, Hall had another commitment but Adams said she would contact him in the regular season schedule another time to do it. A week ago Monday, he heard from Adams again and it was decided he would drop the puck at Sunday’s game against the Fort Worth Brahmas. That afternoon, it didn’t take long for Hall to realize that members of the Oilers organization had something more in mind for him when he prepared to take the ice. “I knew they had something planned when Taylor Hall came into the penalty box with them before the game,” he said. Hall made his way across the red carpet to center ice at the BOK Center, followed by the Oilers General Manager. There, he was joined by Oilers Captain Tyler Fleck and Brahmas Captain Ross Rouleau for the ceremonial puck drop. Then, Hall says he was caught off guard when Taylor Hall presented him with another Sher-Wood hockey stick signed on the blade by Angela Ruggiero to replace the one he had lost. “I was so excited that I had another item from a historic event in Oilers history,” Hall said. “Angela has some Oilers gear in the Hockey Hall of Fame from the game she played here, so that’s a big deal.” But as Les Stockton tells it, that wasn’t all the Oilers GM had with him. “Since Taylor Hall has the same last name, he went ahead and presented John with a Hall jersey with the colors from when Taylor played with the Oilers.” “The sweater was over the top,” Hall said. “I’ve always wanted my name on the back of one…it was very humbling and exciting at the same time.” As an added bonus, the Oilers defeated the Brahmas 4-2. Les Stockton says the team really came through for John and told him he didn’t have to worry about any of the costs involved. “The Oilers took care of the cost of presenting John with that stick,” Stockton said. “Although I made the initial offer, they took care of the whole thing and I thought it was really nice. Getting something from the hockey community means something.” Hall says it was a gesture that he’ll never forget, not only from the Oilers organization but from Stockton as well. “I’m very appreciative of Les helping to arrange this,” Hall said. “He’s one of my best friends and has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. He was one of the first people to contact me after the fire and offer to help. Other friends I’ve met through hockey were quick to offer a helping hand as well. They’ve all been great and I can’t thank them enough.” Contact the writer at email@example.com Contact the photographer at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews