I love hockey. Ever since I laced on a pair of skates I've been addicted to the ice, well okay, there was a bit of a learning curve.
You know how some Dad's throw their kid in a lake and say; "swim?" My Dad left me in the middle of the rink at open skate, with the Zamboni coming out to resurface and said; "See you at the door."
Believe it or not, I will forever be grateful.
Know how big that Zamboni looks to a seven year old? Baby I skated, and now.
When I was a kid I went to the rink every day for two straight winters. It was such a routine, that my Mom came home once and asked me why I wasn't at the rink? Did she forget to give me skating money? What was wrong?
Um, Mom - I was grounded. (She gave me the 50 cents I needed and sent me on my way. Thanks Mom. Btw, does anything cost 50 cents anymore?)
My Dad took me to my first game. The Detroit Red Wings vs. The Colorado Rockies at Olympia Stadium in Detroit - 1976. I've told this story before. This is a poster I got at the game? Yep, I still have it hanging in my office. Once ravaged by thumbtacks and scotch tape, it was saved by my fabulous wife, matted and framed. I think that my last "little boy look" probably came the day I asked her if she might salvage it because I didn't want it to "just hang in the garage," and she made it look authentic, and old school, a tribute to my favorite sport, and the place I consider my hometown.
I have other memorabilia from the D of course. These are pennants from my first Tiger game in 1976 (Orange), and from the last two games we went to before they closed Tiger Stadium in 1999.
As every true Detroit native must, I also have the obligatory Lion's paraphernalia - fitting that it's a trash can I suppose. (Oh Dear Lions, please don't draft another QB until you have someone who can protect him.) The Bucket isn't from Detroit, but is a commemorative ice bucket from Superbowl XL which was played in Detroit, purchased at my local Kroger on sale for five dollars.
We have been to Ford Field though. After a friend asked me to go with him to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh the season that it opened, I immediately put an inaugural season trip to Ford Field on our agenda. So my ladies and I ventured forth, and of course came home with a prize. Well okay, the girls got stuffed "Roary" Lions, Netter got a cool Lions Santa ornament, and I got this very cool football.
I continue to root for the Tigers, and Lions, even the Pistons to this day, but the cancellation of a season in 1994, more than 50 years of what might best be described as mediocrity and probably more accurately as pitiful gridiron performance, and my inability to recognize anything basketball like in today's NBA leaves me with one true love, one sport that is pure, one sport that owns my heart. My doctor thinks it sounds funny, but I always find peace on the ice. I feel at home. I feel free. I feel like I belong.
Enter the Detroit Red Wings. For 33 years now, I've followed their fortunes. Sometimes I lost track as we moved around. Not a lot of hockey coverage in Lima, Ohio and we didn't have the Internet in 1979. Even during the eighties in Columbus there wasn't a ton of hockey coverage. Still I got everything I could from the local paper, and whenever we visited the D during the season, the Free Press and I were fast friends.
As the ESPN network grew, and the Columbus Chill came to my new hometown, I was able to once again fully embrace my love affair with the game I think defines me. I started playing again in 1997, and only a year later the NHL announced that Columbus, that's right Columbus, Ohio was being awarded an NHL franchise - later named The Blue Jackets. (I still think the Chill is a cooler name.)
Friends who knew me asked if, when the Blue Jackets began to play I would renounce my allegiance to the Red Wings, and become a fan of the CBJ.
What?!?!!!? Throw away what was then more than 20 years, of heartache, and failure followed by sweet success and two straight Stanley Cups to root for an upstart franchise full of castoffs from other teams, and begin the struggle again? Are you kidding me?
As my friend Juice would say H - E double hockey sticks - NO! Not on your life.
I said then, and I still say today actually I will always root for the Blue Jackets to do well, but I'm not about to root for them to beat my Red Wings.
Some may know of my struggle to deal with being a Michigan fan, and my eventual conversion to being a Buckeye, and suspect that one day I will change my mind in this situation as well.
Let me assure you that will not happen. I became a full fledged Buckeye for a number of reasons - all detailed here, but as much as I am passionate about The Ohio State University now, I am that much more passionate about the Red Wings.
Yet, somehow these Blue Jackets, the CBJ have found a soft spot in my heart, and I find myself watching their games with a similar passion to when I'm watching the Wings, and they are "the local team," and without even planning on it, I've become a fan and I am really rooting for them to do well.
But do I want them to beat my Red Wings? Would the inconceivable really happen?
I'll tell you next time.
6 hours ago