Pat Hickey thought his beloved Honda Civic had been through it all in the last 350,000 miles. That was before the longtime hockey writer with the Montreal Gazette parked his car near the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia before a Canadiens-Flyers playoff game.
During Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday, Hickey's car was vandalized in the arena parking lot. One of his front tires was slashed. The rubber of his front bumper was stripped. Worst of call, the Quebec license plate was stolen.
"There are a lot of good people in Philadelphia who were very helpful to me after the damage was done," said Hickey, a sportswriter for 45 years. "So I don't want to forget about them. It was just a couple of Flyers fans who got me good, I guess. I'll live."
As he did for the Canadiens' first round series against Washington, Hickey is making the seven-hour drive between Montreal and Philadelphia with a few colleagues for the series with the Flyers. In between covering practice on the off-day before Game 2, the writer spent many hours at a Philadelphia body shop and police precinct.
"The police officer who filed my accident report is a Flyers season ticketholder," said Hickey. "He was very nice about the whole thing, and apologized on behalf of the city and the fanbase. He knows it wasn't a coincidence the car with the Quebec plates was the only one in the parking lot with crushed beer cans all over it."
Still, the 66-year-old Hickey is handling the incident with his typical good humor.
"You have to," he said. "There were some nice things. When I was done writing after the game, it was a few hours before I left the rink and got to my car. It was very late at night, but still there was someone there -- I believe he was a union worker with the arena -- who helped me put on the spare tire. I would have been in trouble without him.
Just add another chapter to the book on the glamorous life of a sportswriter.
"On his way to the podium today for the press conference," said Hickey, "(Montreal coach) Jacques Martin said, 'Hey Pat, you got a car I can borrow?' Who said the coach doesn't have a sense of humor"?
As a result of Hickey's misfortune, it appears the Flyers are considering a change in protocol. The press parking at the Wachovia Center is usually just for Philadelphia-based reporters.
"Word is, that might change for this series," said Hickey.
Now all the scribe has to do is make it after Game 2 from Philadelphia to Montreal without a license plate.