When I was a very young guy, in the mid and late sixties, my father and I loved watching hockey together. This was the Golden Age of the Chicago Blackhawks-- Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito. This was back in the days when you could watch a hockey game on regular television. Blogger Kristi was recently lamenting the fact that unlike in Canada, hockey is pretty much available only to those with cable these days in the United States.
The first game I actually got to go to was when I was eighteen, when I was still living at home and going to college, early 1980. The game has become legend in my family. Our next door neighbor had given us the tickets, and they were good ones-- maybe 10 or 12 rows back from the ice. This was in the old Chicago Stadium. At some point during the game, someone hit a really good slapshot. I watched as it left the ice and headed toward the glass right in front of me. It appeared to me that it was going to hit near the top of the glass. It hit the top of the glass, kept going, went in between two people seated a couple rows ahead of me. I could see that it wasn't headed directly for me, so I did nothing. It hit the top of the seat in front of me, bounced up and hit me square in the mouth. I suddenly thought to go for the puck, but by then it had bounced a couple of rows in front of me. A couple of people sitting near me argued with the guy who got it that I should get it, since it had hit me in the teeth, to no avail. For my part, I was just glad my teeth, which had just finished four years of orthodontic work, were okay. Later that year, they'd take a direct hit from a cinderblock and emerge unscathed. I'm apparently blessed with good dental health.
My son has inherited my love of hockey. He plays street hockey with his best friend Brad at my ex's house, and usually plays floor hockey at a Chicago Park District fieldhouse in the winter. For a time, he even planned on hockey as a career until attending a Chicago Wolves game last year with my neighbor.
At the game last year, hockey legend Bobby Hull came out and skated around for a promotional appearance. I think I was more excited about it than my son was; Hull was long gone to Winnepeg before I ever actually got to go see the Hawks play.
Tonight, my wife is at a function for my stepdaughter's school and then out celebrating one of her best friends' birthday. I was supposed to stay in with my kids, but my neighbor came downstairs this afternoon and invited my kids to the Chicago Wolves game tonight. Of course they jumped at the chance; my stepdaughter was particularly excited, having never been to a hockey game.
My neighbors/landlords are serious fans-- they have season tickets to the Wolves. They take their fandom seriously, wearing their jerseys and bringing all their good luck charms. They also lent my kids jerseys to get them dressed up for the game:
My son got the honor of wearing the Ogilthorpe jersey:
I'm betting that Kristi and any other serious hockey fan recognizes this from the greatest hockey movie ever made, Slapshot.
My neighbors also sometimes wear their Hanson Brothers jersey to the games.
As always happens to me, weird coincidences. I plugged my ipod into the stereo to sit down and write this post, and the first song that came up on the shuffle was Maxine Nightingale's song "Right Back Where We Started From," the theme song to "Slapshot."
On this cold, snowy February night in Chicago, I'm dreaming of a June night when I'll drag my laptop out on the back porch, and my neighbors and I will break out "Slapshot" and sit out there sipping drinks and watching the movie. In the meantime, here's the Hanson Brothers with a little "old-time hockey-- like Eddie Shore!"