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Postcards from the World Cup

Postcard: Fan Village's Dave Stubbs meets a fellow Rogie Vachon fan

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

TORONTO -- There was a great deal of yellow at the Scotiabank World Cup of Hockey Fan Village on Tuesday morning; Team Sweden jerseys, dozens and dozens of them. And why not, with Swedish hockey legend Daniel Alfredsson and his wife, Bibbi, joining 100 others to take a solemn oath to become Canadian citizens.

But across the vast grounds I spotted a different hue of yellow, and I made a beeline for it. It was a gentleman wearing a vintage Los Angeles Kings jersey. Some would tell you it was ghastly in its day, created to blind the competition; now it's throwback chic.

And then this gentleman, also wearing a Canadian Football League Toronto Argonauts cap, turned around and there it was: a huge 30 on his back, with the nameplate "Vachon" above it. A kindred spirit. A Rogie Vachon fan!

Torontonian Martin Schwartzberg has been, like me, a lifelong fan of the diminutive goaltender who in November will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

"I was a Habs fans when Rogie played for the Canadiens and was traded to Los Angeles in 1972," Martin told me.

"That would be 1971," I gently corrected him.

"I became a Kings fan immediately," he continued without pause. "And then when he went to Detroit, I was a Red Wings fan. And then he finished his career playing for the Boston Bruins."

Martin didn't tell me whether he became a Bruins fan, and I didn't ask because maybe I didn't want to know the answer. There could be a law against being a fan of the Canadiens and the Bruins in one lifetime.

It was a special day in the Fan Village, a gathering place for fans during this World Cup of Hockey 2016.

The Canadian citizenship ceremony was wonderful, and it was emotional for many of those swearing the oath to become a citizen of this country.

They had come here literally from around the world, judging from complexion and languages spoken. But all of them had the maple leaf figuratively tattooed on their hearts, many having left entire lives behind to settle here with the promise of a new, enriching life.

They listened to words spoken from the grand stage, and they will learn more in the days ahead of their new country and the woman who gracefully emceed the ceremony: Canadian hockey pioneer and icon Cassie Campbell-Pascall.

I'd ridden a hotel elevator mid-morning with Cassie, a friend of many years, and she was worried, needlessly, about the French she would speak.

Back to an NHL production trailer I went to transcribe my notes and write my column on what was a milestone day for Alfredsson, for his wife, for 100 others who came alone or with families, and for all the fans in three-crowned yellow and blue jerseys in attendance for their Swedish hockey hero.

I stopped by this place again on my way out a few hours later to watch a bit of the Team Sweden vs. Team Finland game on three giant screens, mounted on and flanking the stage where 102 people had recently been welcomed as new Canadians.

Martin, my fellow Rogie Vachon fan, had left by now, though he told me he'd look for me on Hall of Fame induction weekend in mid-November. He said he'd not be hard to find in his "Vachon" jersey.

On my walk back to Air Canada Centre, through Toronto's historic Distillery District, I stopped into a bit of an antique store and considered for one heartbeat buying something for Daniel Alfredsson to commemorate his landmark day.

It was Canadiana at its finest: a penguin fashioned with moose antlers. But I figured Alfie probably already had one, so I moved on.

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