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Sunday, February 22, 1998
Cat's a lucky dog
By MARK MILLER -- Calgary Sun
As an NHL goalie, Rick Tabaracci has thrown his body in front of 100 m.p.h. slapshots.
He's faced down Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr on breakaways.
He's endured the pressure of playoff overtimes.
But Tabby's greatest challenge came last week in Maui. Not on a hockey rink, but in a beachfront resort with the woman of his dreams and an engagement proposal.
This is the story of a hockey player and his ring. And the Maui Madness that led to Rick Tabaracci's engagement to former Miss Calgary and Miss Canada, Lana Buchberger.
The good-natured couple can laugh about it now, but for Tabby, it was two days of intense pressure.
It began in Maui when Tabby decided he'd use his one-week holiday from the NHL on the Hawaiian island with girlfriend Lana to make his proposal.
The first problem -- finding a ring.
The second problem -- doing it without Lana knowing.
"It was pretty cloak and dagger," said the Flames goalie.
Tabaracci first spotted the jewelry store while shopping and arranged to buy a Valentine's Day bracelet there, while at the same time secretly eyeing the engagement rings. With a good idea of what he wanted, the fun began.
After finally sneaking away to pick out a ring, Tabby asked the clerk to wrap it and have it ready later for quick pickup.
Later, he sends Lana shopping on her own for half an hour and rushes back to the store, American Express in hand and the clock ticking. The ring is wrapped, ready to go.
Just one problem. His credit card is declined. Panic sets in -- Tabby grabs the phone to call AmEx.
The lady who answers the phone says his spending limit is set on his previous frugal spending patterns and so the purchase wasn't approved.
Because Tabby has moved twice in the last year he has no current bank statements on file to enable the unusual purchase.
"Listen, I'm a professional hockey player -- you've got to approve this," pleads Tabaracci.
The lady on the other end of the phone asks who he plays for and tells him to hold on. She gets back on the phone and says there is a guy in the office who has heard of him.
Now the guy at AmEx gets on the phone and starts talking hockey. He's from North Carolina and is happy that the NHL has come to his state. He knows Tabby played in Florida. Finally, he approves the ring purchase.
Oh, but the fun has just begun.
Tabby needs to find the right place to propose. He stows the ring in a side pocket of the video camera bag he carries everywhere.
He spots a brochure for a helicopter tour of the island that includes a stopover at one of the most beautiful vistas he's ever seen.
"I'm thinking this is perfect," says Tabby.
That night, Tabby lost the car keys so Lana starts rummaging though the camera bag.
"She's got the strap on the side pocket half undone before I get chance to grab it away," he laughs.
Lana suspects something but not an engagement ring.
"It's Valentine's Day morning, we're in the helicopter and the ring is in the camera case which is attached to my hip for two days.
"It's a great trip and finally the pilot says we're going to land. They have champagne to give to everyone. I'm thinking this will be great, but I look down and we are over a cow pasture.
"The pilot said to be careful when you are stepping out, there's cow patties everywhere.
"There is a great view from the edge of the field, but we're standing in this cow manure and the ring is in my pocket and I think 'no way. If I get down on one knee, I'll stink for a week.'
"For the last half of the flight, I was really bummed out."
Later that night, the ring still in his pocket, Tabby ushers Lana to a secluded clifftop near their hotel and finally, while the sun sets, pops the question before the pressure kills him.
The answer -- yes.
"I've been in a lot of pressure situations, but I've got a lot more grey hair now after that whole episode," laughs Tabby.
Playing hockey has never looked so easy in comparison.

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