Sunday, November 23, 2008

And your point?


hartford failures whalers media guide ::  1996-97 season :: the final season

My wee, little obsession with a sport that’s played on ice amazes people more often than you would think.

I’m not sure why my complete, fanatical devotion that sometimes borders on scary-focused would amaze people.  It’s not like I’m a GIRL or anything.  *snickers*

I can tell you this much - it started with the Hartford Whalers.

My attraction to hockey stems from two separate, but very linked things: A game vs. Russia and the Hartford Whalers Children’s Cancer Fund. 

My very first hockey game ever, we saw the Whale play the Russian National team. (This was the way early 80s.) I can’t remember off the top of my head who was who, but someone got checked in the corner and the zamboni doors opened, dumping both players on the floor. I don’t really like violence, IRL at least, but in hockey?  Bring. It. On.

The second thing is much more sentimental.  When my cousin Nicholas was dying of cancer, I knew the Whalers would often do hospital visits to the sick kids.  I always hoped we’d be visiting when they were there (this was before that first game - they were just celebrities, then).  I wanted to do *that*—get the players to the kids and make their hospital stays happy ones—when I grew up.

Living a half hour from Hartford didn’t make me a Whalers fan, though.  My attention was pulled north - to what is now known as the “Hub of Hockey”.  (yuk)  I was bleeding gold and black from day one.  I like to think that it’s because I share Bobby Orr’s birthday.  My favorite player in all of Bruins history?  Easy.  Andy Moog, and I have the autographed photo to prove it.

I worked for the UConn Men’s Hockey program my last two years in school as the student manager / admin assistant.  I’m not sure what other student managers at other schools do, but I carted water buckets, dirty laundry, and (on a few occasions) drunk hockey players around in addition to living on the bench, tape and stones at the ready.  Back in those days, UConn played in an OUTDOOR rink.  Yes.  OUTDOOR.  (The indoor rink wasn’t completed until after I graduated.  I know without a doubt that’s where most of the hair on my chest comes from.  HA!) 

I remember a lot of “my boys” fondly… Link, Marotta and Schultzie walking around Freeport with me during my first road trip when I didn’t know any of the team yet… the time Converse got pissed off and destroyed a water bottle less than 6” from me (I got soaked! and pissed.)... the time Philly Blunt took a puck to the nuts and I discovered the idiot didn’t wear a cup (try having THAT discussion with the kid’s dad!)... the one-two punch of Matty Nee and Murph the Smurf with their snake and renditions of “C’mon Ride the Train”...the day the top of JJ’s finger got sliced off and the day I had to hold Busenberg’s back together after he took a skate to it.  These were (and still are) my boys. 

I spent the summer before my senior year in college as an intern for the Whale.  My time at UConn killed any hero-worship I might have had for the players and I loved working in PR.  I got to call all the players that summer and ask them stupid questions for the media guide, pick photos, write a press release naming the draft picks, and basically hang out with the stats guy.  I’ll never forget reminding Nelson Emerson that BGSU had just retired his number.  Or the fact that Shanny is such a f’ing, well, I’ll stop there. Any hope I had of joining the Whale after college vanished for good the day

The Devil

Karmanos announced the team was moving.  I watched that last game from my dorm room, in tears.  It wasn’t right.  They were OUR team, Connecticut’s team, before the UConn basketball programs became THE game in town.  I never really bled green and blue, but it hurt all the same.

I wound up in Toledo, working for the ECHL affiliate of the Red Wings as the Director of Community Relations. I made friends with most of the guys and I’ll have a special place in my heart for Kolzy, Arsey, Malts, Thorpey, Louis… all of them. I did a lot I was proud of - a lot of hospital and school visits, starting a kids’ club and a dek hockey league - but it wasn’t enough.  I left the team after a year.  The money wasn’t there and the GM didn’t like me.  You would think a big, macho hockey player wouldn’t be afraid of a chick, but apparently something about me bothered him.  I struggled with that decision for a long time.  I still dwell on it at times.  I turned my back on my dream, my love, and it would be a long time before I could watch the sport again.

My original plan for college was to go to a Beanpot school, specifically BU, but I would have taken any of the others as a back-up, even BC, just to be close to that level of hockey… when my mom died my junior year of HS, it kind of changed everything.  When we moved back East in 2004, close to Boston, we got season tickets to BU before the boxes were even unpacked. My love of Boston University hockey reignited my passion for the game.  I never thought I’d feel that again. I never thought I’d feel it so INTENSELY again.  There was a point where I could reel stats off the top of my head and everything focused around hockey… it was back, harder than ever.  (Except for the fact that I can’t keep stats in my head like that anymore… *sigh* Must be getting old.) I don’t know any of the current BU players personally - I’m a little too old and too married to hang out in bars or share classes with them - but I love these boys with the same ferocity that I did the ones I used to work with. My life has come full circle… in its odd little way.

SO… to get to the whole reason behind this post, I invited a friend from college, my “football boyfriend”, Bill, to come to the game on the 29th with me.  Bill and I had the following conversation via Facebook:

ME:  I have to be in the arena as close to 6 as possible - I need the time to read the game notes and watch the warm-up. (I am a wee bit psycho and superstitious.)

BILL:  WOW! You are a hard-core fan.

He doesn’t know the half of it.

Posted by Matty on 11/23 at 08:45 PM