So my five years of work was finally coming home: on June 6, 2009 I brought my WHA Racers documentary to Indianapolis for its premiere.
It's difficult to adequately describe the outpouring of emotions involved — from Racers fans, former players and myself — as we met again after so long, watched the documentary together at the beautiful IMAX Theater, and then shared stories and autographs afterward.
It all starts for me with my origial Racers "SuperFans" cohorts, DAVE and BILL PICKERING. As teenagers we lived atop Market Square Arena, and here we were together again. Our brotherly bond, built on those shared hockey experiences decades ago, is like emotional glue. The love I feel for them when I see them is unabashadly overwhelming.
But before our shared sentimental journey, there was more work to be done. Sarah Gassen and I traveled from Arizona on Thursday, and by early Friday morning we were working the advance media. Guest of Honor PAT "Whitey" STAPLETON arrived from Canada, and together we were kindly hosted by the 1070-AM "Kravitz & Eddie" show and then also DEREK SCHULTZ at XL-950 radio. Former Racers greats AL KARLANDER, KEN BLOCK and HUGH HARRIS also picthed in.
WHITEY STAPLETON and myself were then whisked off to interviews with BRAD BROWN at WRTV-6, and then for a segment with WES WOODWARD and LARRY HAWLEY at Fox-59 TV. We cannot express enough our appreciation to the TV and radio people of Indianapolis for their kindness, help and support. (See the FOX-59 interview below):
Friday night we were delighted to have the former Racers together at HUGH HARRIS' wonderful Carmel restuarant, Greek Tony's, where we were treated to a suprise Racers birthday cake — and much good-natured ball-busting from Hugh until the early morning hours.
On Saturday I shot video of the massive Racers memorabilia collection of fan MIKE CAMPBELL. (View that clip below.) Mike just might get an honorary SuperFan membership for kindly sharing his fine collection with us!
Then we scrambled back to our hotel to continue the player video interviews we started a few weeks ago in Canada for the upcoming new WHA documentaries we are producing. But what were we in Indy for, anyway? Oh, yes the actual film screening on Saturday night!
We must thank CRAIG MINCE and the IMAX Theater at the impressive Indiana State Museum for hosting our screening. It was a beautiful setting, and we thank Craig and his staff for having us there.
Fans traveled from as far away as San Francisco, Florida, Michigan and Washington DC, and we were all delighted to see many of the faces that graced Market Sqaure Arena during the Racers 1970s playing days. Another great birthday surprise was in the form of former Racers radio and TV voice MIKE FORNES, who surprised us by slipping into town just before the screening. Mike also attended the Toronto debut as our honored guest, and it was wonderful to have him with us again.
I admit it was nerve-wracking for me to sit in the massive IMAX Theater to watch my Racers film along with my first hockey heros and the dedicated Racers and Indy hockey fans. I worked so hard to tell their story, and I hoped I had succeeded. You see, the debut at the Hockey Hall of Fame in May 2009 was important, but for me this night was the REAL show — this was for the people and major league hockey players of Indianapolis.
The devoted hockey fans of Indianapolis were so kind to me with their comments after the screening, and they patiently lined up for a very long autograph line. The look of delight on the fans' faces as they met the former Racers greats made me swell with pride inside.
And while I told all who would listen that this was the end of the Racers story, Whitey Stapleton would have none of that. So I admitted to him that I had been offered the chance to put together a Racers All-Star team to skate a charity game in Indianapolis early in 2010. We don't know yet if this will actually happen, but even the possibility helped to soften the inevitable and difficult goodbyes with my Racers brothers after the night was over.
So stay tuned: The Indianapolis Racers might have one last life left in them. Even if they do not, I can only be thankful to all who have helped me for these past five years bring this story back to life.
Together we have done it. Together we have finally won.
And Dave and Bill — I love you, my SuperFan brothers.
— Timothy Gassen