11 October 2013

One Memorable Night: The Range Of Emotions At A Home Opener

Let's face it - hockey is a passionate game.  From the players on the ice to the fans in the stands, everyone tends to experience a vast array of emotions from the moment they step inside the arena.  The home opener, in particular, is one of the most emotional nights on the sports calendar - it's a chance for the local fans to welcome their team back from their summer vacation and bring about the dawn of a new season: Hockey Season.

Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to attend my very first home opener, as the Los Angeles Kings hosted the New York Rangers at Staples Center.  Little did I know that I would be witness to a three-hour display of a wide range of human emotion, which began from the moment I took my seat…


A pretty basic emotion, for sure, but one that should always be present.  We arrived inside the arena as the Kings were being introduced to the crowd, with each player receiving a warm round of applause as he skated out toward center ice.  It was a nice moment, and showed the passion of the home crowd.

22 September 2013

Developing a Hockey Fan: Part 2

1985-1988: Fat Pigs, Prime Tickets, and The Rise of Nintendo

In Part 1 of this series, I described my difficulty in discovering hockey as a kid in Chicago in the early 1980's.  By the fall of 1985, my father (a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy) had been transferred and my family relocated to the hockey hotbed of...Honolulu, Hawaii?!

Acclimating myself through my wardrobe...
At the age of 9, we settled into our new island paradise, and my passion for sports grew rapidly: the Chicago Bears' run to the Super Bowl that season quickly became the biggest sports story as the NFL exploded in popularity, while Magic Johnson and the "Showtime" Lakers helped lead the NBA to greater success.   In addition, the University of Hawaii sports teams were pretty much our only "local teams" to support every year, so I began to notice both college football and basketball.  I would continue my participation in Little League baseball for the next few years, and when I grew six inches in the summer of 1987 (bringing me to 6'4" at the age of 11), it only seemed natural that I would participate in basketball as well - being able to play outside in warm weather ALL year long certainly helped with both sports.

Hockey in Hawaii at this time was a complete afterthought, though I vividly remember a 6th-grade field trip to a local ice rink (Ice Palace, which is still open today), marking my first time ever wearing ice skates.  I was unaware of any youth hockey organization in which to join, and we certainly didn't have our own local NHL team.  Television coverage was also limited for sure - even though the NHL was broadcast nationally on ESPN at the time, and our cable provider carried Prime Ticket (home of the Los Angeles Kings), I never really knew when the games were on and had no real knowledge of the players involved.

16 September 2013

Developing a Hockey Fan: Part 1

For my first post in this series (and the first of my entire blog), I thought I would share the story of someone whom I believe to be very well-versed on the sport of hockey - ME!  But, more specifically, I wanted to pose this question:

How is a hockey fan created?

It seems pretty simple to those people who grew up in the cold-weather climates of the Northeastern United States and Canada, but what about those of us who didn't?  How do WE pick up the game?  Using myself as an example, I'll chart a chronological timeline to show how tricky it can be - detailing a variety of factors from family connection and youth sports registration to television coverage and, the most underrated factor of them all, video games.

1982-1985: The Influence of Baseball, and the Curse of SportsVision

My father was a proud member of the US Navy, and so our family moved around quite a bit after I was born.  In 1982, we finally settled into Great Lakes, Illinois - just north of Chicago - as Dad was assigned to instruct the new recruits at the Great Lakes Naval Station (home to the nation's only Naval boot camp, as well as being my birthplace in 1976).

From a sports perspective, I come from a family of baseball fans.  My father played on his high school team and grew up cheering for the Milwaukee Braves - a team led by Hall-of-Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Warren Spahn, the winningest left-handed pitcher in MLB History (Spahn, who has an award bestowed each year in his honor, was my dad's favorite player).  My father's family is from southern Illinois, and many of them still cheer for the St. Louis Cardinals to this day; my mother's family is from Missouri and Arkansas, and virtually all of them cheer for the St. Louis Cardinals as well.  With an upbringing like this, it should come as no surprise that I played Little League baseball, like many 6-year-old American boys:

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