SAN JOSE – Sharks coach Pete DeBoer wasn’t asked about Muhammad Ali on Saturday morning, but felt the time was right to relay a story from his childhood regarding the legendary boxer who passed away on Friday at the age of 74.
Prior to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and after he was through taking questions about the game, DeBoer recalled a vivid moment from his high school years.
“I just want to end with a quick thing on Muhammad Ali. Lost a great person. The reason I want to speak about him, I'm not a collector of sports memorabilia, but I have three things in my basement – a Wayne Gretzky stick, a Bobby Orr print, a Mike Weir Masters print, and I have a Koran signed by Muhammad Ali.
“I wouldn't normally share this with you, but I think considering the circumstances today – I got it 30 years ago. I was at my prom at the Royal Connaught Hotel in Hamilton. I was a 17-year-old kid, had my tux on. I was in the lobby. Muhammad Ali walked in with his entourage. He was there for some type of appearance.
“I asked one of the entourage if I could meet him with my friends. He said to give him a minute. He came back to me and he said Muhammad Ali is up in this room. Meet him up in his room in five minutes.
“Me and three or four of my buddies went up to the room. He got out a Koran for each of us. He wasn't preaching or trying to convert us, he just personalized each one for us, asked us some questions about what we were doing.
“It was an unbelievable life experience for me. I think, considering the circumstances, how this guy transcended not just boxing and sport, but how many people he's touched, it's an appropriate story to tell. I know you guys (the media) have the time, too, to listen (laughter)."