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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Infamous "Hockey Puck" Incident

First off, if you didn’t work with me in New York (yes, most of you are gone—yes, really gone), that headline will mean absolutely zippo to you. You'll have to read the book that I hope to finish by 2018.

Okay, so for now there's some grey area. Now onto the countdown, uh, story...

It is true...

...I once fired an official NHL hockey puck through a tempered glass window in a fit of work rage inspired by an editor of a trade magazine with bricks for brains. Those of you who do not appreciate the fine art displayed on ice nightly from October through May every year, might not comprehend that throwing a six-ounce vulcanized rubber disk, sized one-inch thick by three inches in diameter is no easy task. (Read about how hard it is from the nerds here.) I whipped it through the window hitting the smokers outside with shards of glass and a heavy dose of rage. I did it in one motion. This was one of those incidents you hear about where someone has a huge rush of adrenaline and lifts a Cadillac. This temporary strength came out of anger, and I’m usually not that angry a guy.

I am not naming the characters involved. My prerogative. Nor will I deny or confirm the many conjectures I know are coming. Sorry, but I'm taking the high road. In the book I'll probably name names (and there are some decent names in this mix).

I was an up-and-coming Media Guy still doing public relations, dialing for product placements and column inches. I was a moderate-sized agency working a train wreck of an account and capitalizing on my newfound success getting magazine covers for a computer with a 25 megabyte hard drive. Yeah, I know you have a phone with 64 gigabytes -- which is about 2600 times bigger than that dinosaur -- but back in the late eighties that was big news. Yet I digress...

Sometime pucks hit nothing. Photo by Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.
I was expecting a big product review to be dropping to further solidify my expected key to the executive washroom. (Yeah, back in the late eighties that was still a thing.) Imagine my surprise, when after holding for a full hour to verify facts, the writer of the big review decided that my client would not be in the review. You can also imagine the fever that built from there. Had this happened today I would have mentally blown an arctic breeze up my sphincter and cooled down. But I was younger and more inexperienced. (This is why you hire seasoned pros to run your advertising and marketing departments. Respond, don't react.)

So I just seethed. This writer was know for taking gifts, cash, and girls for the right feature, but I was playing it straight. Taking my client out? Well, for me, that was the final straw. I slammed the phone down nearly breaking it. Not getting the reaction I desired from from mini-fit, I hurled the puck towards the window.

Seeing and hearing the glass shatter felt great, by the way. At the time I was doing it I had no idea this was a feat of Herculean strength. I might as well have been firing my Nerf basketball at the trashcan in the the corner of my office as I usually did. Even after I did it (and the faces of my colleagues revealed true horror) it didn’t seem like any big deal.

My department manager wisely decided that I should have the afternoon off. I was not clearly going to be of much help that day. He equipped my with a bottle of Jim Beam and sent me back to corporate housing for the night.

The next day I returned to the office, creeping around corners, hoping not to be noticed. Before I reached my boarded up office, the agency's managing director called me in and the conversation when something like this:

MY BOSS'S BOSS [pouring himself a 9:05 A.M. cocktail]: I was looking for you yesterday because I heard what happened.

ME [gulping with obvious forehead perspiration]: It was unfortunate...

MY BOSS'S BOSS [interrupting]: know, I've been thinking...yesterday will be your last day in that department.

ME: [more sweating]

MY BOSS'S BOSS: We need passionate PR people like you here. Most of the staff on that floor would take the failure and move on with their day. Not you! You care! You cared enough to let the entire agency feel your rage. Your rage of failure. [hands me the 9:05 A.M. cocktail] I see big things for you. Cheers!

The culprit.
And with that cheers, I was promoted to Sr. Public Relations Manager above my old boss, reported to my new boss, i.e., my boss's boss.

I should mention that a few weeks later I was out with my new boss on a daily basis at client luncheons drinking my liquid meals, three vodkas at a time in a ritual that demanded a strong liver and a gift of the gab. I had both. I lasted three years before going to Australia to work at the National Gallery...

More to come in the book.
Save up.
Buy it in 2018.

Final thought: Throwing that rubber disk is not something I’m particularly proud of (which is why I rarely bring it up). And even though it’s easy to get very emotionally attached to a project, issues should not be cause for losing your mind. It's much easier to say now when I am pushing fifty. Back then, I had a mean slapshot.

And now for my next trick…

Ticketmaster has eight better ways for me to have used my hockey puck at the office: