I discovered hockey…

Let’s hear how you discovered hockey.  Were you born on the ice?  Did you go to a game as a kid, or as an adult, and fall in love with the game?  For me it was illness and espn.  I got pnemonia when I was in my early teens.  It was back when espn had bird-calling and lumberjack competitions.  I don’t know, maybe they even had bircalling-lumberjack competitions.  It was pretty uninspiring.  I don’t know if they were even allowed to mention the NFL on espn in those days.  Berman was there, though.  

Anyway, I grew up loving NFL football.  My dad was into it.  He said that back when he was a kid the NFL was kinda bush-league.  “The players had jobs in the offseason,” he told me.  He grew up in Brooklyn (born ’38) though, so he loved the Dodgers as a kid.  He never liked them in LA, I guess it was a real let down for him.  He said they used to sneak into Ebbett’s Field (or that they’d be allowed in) in like the 7th inning or so.  Anyway, he liked Baseball, Boxing, Horseracing, and Football.  I don’t remember wether it was just from watching with him, or an attempt to impress him, but I became a student of the game real early.  We’d go to the Rams games at the Colliseum and the names Youngblood, McCutcheon, Capalletti, Haden, and Cromwell were like incantations to me.  I loved the game and always played smear-the-queer with anyone.  I’m just average size, but I refused to go down.  And, I loved to measure my abilities against others even at that time.  So, I played the obligatory soccer and even got really into it for a while (I’d rediscover what I never even really knew years later), but my sports center in my brain always thought about football.  I played with friends all the time in elementary school.  Third, fourth, fifth, sixth…then Conejo Cowboys.

I have to say here that I grew up in the Conejo Valley.  You probably don’t know of it, but the Dallas Cowboys used to come to the local Lutheran University for training-camp.  The problem was that I hated the Cowboys.  They always beat the Rams, no matter how good the Rams were.  It’s probably not entirely true.  I’m sure the Rams won sometimes.  But it seemed that when it really mattered the Cowboys were always just a little better.  Anyway, players like Staubach, Dorsett, Billy Joe Dupree (i had an autographed photo) and Robert Newhouse, Ed “Too-Tall” Jones.  I even carried Dorsett’s helmet for him once and the whole time I was wondering, “what the hell am I doing?”  Today, I put it down to peer pressure.  All the kids were fawning over them and I kinda felt like a freak just standing there and staring.  Well, I went to one of those dinners where the parents buy a plate for the family and everyone eats with the players.  Now, I hated the Cowboys, but I always respected Staubach.  He was just too good to hate.  Plus, he was CLASS. But the guy wasn’t able to eat.  He was horded with autograph seekers the whole dinner.  Its funny to think of now, but these were literally picnic tables with paper plates and shit.  I couldn’t imagine todays professional athletes doing that nowadays, but I could be wrong.  Let’s hope so.  So I didn’t bother the guy.  I felt for him.  Plus my dad always kinda looked down on hero-worship, so maybe that had something to do with it.  Regardless of all this, and I know I tend to wander mentally, it seems I’ve always been fated to wear the wrong uniform.  Its scary to think about.  But fucking hell.  Why did it have to be the Conejo Cowboys?  The Rams played 25 miles away, not the Cowboys.  I wanted to wear the Rams uni.

By the way, this will all eventually wrap around and get to my discovery of hockey…

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “I discovered hockey…

  1. Robert e Lee

    Man, good question. I was lucky to have grown up on a stable little block in a normal neighborhood in So. California. One of the neighbor families that moved in back in 1962 came from Lynn, Mass. They came with three kids and we all grew up together. It was their father who took us to our first hockey game together back in 1967: the Kings vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins. Terry Sawchuk was in goal for us and we won, 3 to 2. That was all I ever needed to remember. By the time we were old enough to decide for ourselves about things, we were playing all sports-including street hockey on our block. They were great days and great times. Even without snow, we got a feel for the game. Later, I would organize games whereby we would actually rent out a local hockey rink for an hour late at night and play. Back in 1975, it cost us between $90 (for a rink on the level of playing in the snow) to $125.00 per hour. Those rinks are long gone and So. Cal. real estate comes back to haunt all of us. To play now, starting price for an hour of rink time is $735.00 So much for being a kid!!!
    The years of following the Kings have been nearly as frustrating as growing older/old-period! But true fans find things to keep them going. I am thankful to some nice editors (unnamed ;-) for giving me a contact, and thanks to said contact, a former Kings announcer (Jiggs McDonald), with whom I have sent countless e-mails enjoying reminiscing with him over memories all hockey related. I tell you, there’s just nothing like being able to share the memories of a great hockey game or a favorite team or player.
    I do enjoy reading the thoughts of some knowledgeable and impassioned fans on these blogs, but the bottom line is that the negativity is fearsome. And ultimately, you must come back down to Earth and remember that it’s a sport; it’s entertainment and it’s supposed to be something you enjoy being a part of. Talking about the players as if they were nothing more than pawns is perhaps GM’s work; our work is to let the players know we are delighted to have them here and that we will support them and remain behind them as we pull for our favorite teams and/or players. Note: the beauty of liking the kings and all of their players is that you will, eventually, end up following nearly every team in the NHL-as our players seem to end up playing nearly everywhere else soon enough Keep it up AEG ~ RL

  2. Being from the South, I definitely didn’t grow up on the ice (except for some aborted skating lessons at age 4, which ended with a minor phobia of killing myself with a skate blade). In fact, I distinctly remember the first hockey game I ever saw — the national broadcast of the ’94 Finals, game 7. I was 100% transfixed by the action and drama of that game, and got interested in the prospect of seeing a live game.

    By happy coincidence, the city of Charlotte gained a new minor league team that very same year. My family had actually held season tickets to the old SHL’s Charlotte Checkers back in the 1960s, so there was some precedent for my request to start seeing games live… and eventually my begging for season tickets. Eventually nostalgia won out, and my grandfather agreed to foot the small bill for a couple of seats up in the mezzanine at the creaky old arena.

    So my formative hockey experiences were made in the old wooden seats at Independence Arena (now named for a corporate sponsor and in its 53rd year of hosting hockey), watching low-level minor league games featuring guys like Lyle Wildgoose and Howie Rosenblatt. Might as well have been watching the Charlestown Chiefs. But something about the stripped-down experience of the minors — no bells and whistles, no egos, no media — still appeals to me.

    Anyway, the Checkers were the minor-league affiliate of the Bruins, so I got in the habit of cheering for the parent club. In 1997 they came to town for the first exhibition game of the season, the first time two rookies named Thornton and Samsonov wore the spoked B in competition. Eventually I moved away and no longer followed the Checkers, but the Bruins have a national media presence… and the rest is history.

    bostonblueline.blogspot.com

  3. worldhockeydaily

    robert e lee – wow. great story. hard to believe the ice time back then was still so expensive. it costs a lot to keep the ice going, though, so i guess its to be expected. funny that it actually costs us small time fan/players so much to play, yet we still want these players to become so wealthy playing the game. i respect athletic greatness, but some of the contracted players in this league are not all that good at hockey. no offense to a guy like george parros, but i’m a better hockey player than he is, but i’ll never get paid a dime. maybe i should have learned to fight on the ice instead of play? hehe. what city did you grow up in, and what rinks did you play at? i’m from the conejo valley and started playing in the no-longer-existing conejo rink. the owners moved it to simi valley. the facility is nice, but not always maintained very professionally. i heard some rumor that the old site in conejo had frozen the ground underneath to some ridiculous depth. don’t know if its true, though.

    as far as negativity and rooting for the players goes, you’re right. i try to never say anything too negative about any player in the NHL or even the lower professional leagues. i respect what they do and wish i were able to get paid to play. i really save the venom for ownership groups. i don’t like what they’re doing to the game, and i don’t like the way they treat it so blatantly as a business. i’ll pull for all the young kings players and genuinely love any underdog story to tears. i got choked up just watching Selanne lift the cup after how great he’s been for hockey for so long. he’s become just about my favorite player for some reason. i don’t know anything about him, really, but a story like his is just great. i hope he wins another this year, or at least if he plays, i hope if its his last season its a great one for him. i’d love the Kings to have him for even one final year.

    the story of growing up playing on the streets is great. before i really even knew too much about hockey, i’d play with friends on our feet in garages, or on little patios, or in alleys. sometimes we even played with a tennis ball and broom sticks with no blade. football and hockey were always the most fun for me. unfortunately, there was not a kings fan or a hockey fan i knew of, so it wasn’t until later that i became a kings fan.

    thanks for the story,

    cheers

  4. worldhockeydaily

    bostonblueline – that is just a shining example of a great way to get introduced to the game. for all the negativity surrounding the southern teams, there are many, many stories i’m sure of people that discovered hockey from these clubs coming to town. I, like you, discovered hockey from the playoffs and on tv. first, it was in the early 80’s when i had pnemonia. i spent an entire month in the house, by myself much of the time, and watched the islanders battle their way to the cup. its vague now, but the names potvin, gillies, trottier, and bossy stand out. i remember a fight actually leaving a dent in someones forehead. was it potvin, gillies; i cant remember. then it was the devils and bruins in an 87-88 seven game series with jim schoenfeld coaching the devils, regie lemelin and andy moog in goal for the B’s, Burke for the Devils. Also, John Mclean and Kirk Muller were almost like real devils on the ice. throw in pat verbeek and ken danyko and it was like men in battle. how unlike the Kings I follow today. the nhl at the time really took SO much perseverance to make it through.

    i well remember the game 7 in ’94 between the canucks and rangers. what a great game. so tight, so stretched. both teams were completely invested in it and it was so close at the end. it was one of those games where you find that you’ve been holding your breath and that your nerves are fried. a great game that i actually videotaped in the dark ages of technology. ha. is today’s nhl as good anymore? it seems like the MEN are fewer and farther between these days. is it the money? what happened? quite a long way from the independence arena, i’m sure.

    it sounds to me like you have some precious and golden memories to hold on to. not only introduced to hockey in that way, but with your grandfather. priceless stuff. i hope you have the chance to pass your experiences and joy on to your own grandchildren one day.

    cheers

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