BULLETIN ALERT NUMBER TWO: If you haven't seen this already, hop on over to The Production Line, where our pals have encouraged us all to open our wallets one more time to give to the kiddies. Go ahead and pledge $2 per goal for a game or two--or pledge to pay up if your favorite player succeeds. Or, come up with a complicated combination of both and drive Petrella crazy like someone who will not be mentioned did. I'm...ashamed...
A change of pace, eh? We're well on our way to exhausting the alliterative "W", so why not give hump day a try? (That's what we said.)
This can be a game you attended, a game you played, or, if you've never been to a live hockey game, it can be your hopes and dreams for your first in-person experience (and we hope it'll be when you join us for some H2H magic).
I didn't have to think long about my answer. I've been to three games at the Joe, and while each was a special experience, I have to choose my very first hockey game as the memory that means the most to me.
It was February 16, 2007, a Friday night, during my first, epic trip to visit Brian in Omaha. I did not follow hockey at the time, nor did I know much about it beyond what I saw in passing during the Olympics. Brian, meanwhile, had been a fan since childhood, so while we were planning my first trip out there, he tentatively mentioned catching a University of Nebraska at Omaha game. I say "tentatively" because Brian had made a tremendously sweet effort to plan things that would be special for me, as it was my first time visiting Nebraska, and he wanted to make sure I enjoyed everything on our agenda.
My thought process for deciding whether I wanted to go was simple:
1. Do I get to act a fool via cheering?
2. Subsequently, do you embarrass easily?
Number two was necessary because we were still in the wee days of our relationship, and we didn't have a breadth of in-person experience with one another (read: we'd been on exactly two dates and a handful of group outings before he moved to another time zone).
Needless to say, I opted to go to the game.
The UNO Mavericks took on the Ohio State Buckeyes that night. The first thing that comes to mind when I remember this night is falling in love with the game on the spot. The raucous, electric atmosphere that accompanies most college sports was palpable, only imagine taking an enthusiastic Saturday afternoon at a college football stadium (say, 'Hoos v. the motherfucking Hokies, and I sure am looking at you, Mr. Norris Trophy) and multiplying it by a hundred because the fans are so much closer to the action and to one another. The excitement of what was happening on the ice, combined with the crowd's energy, the mix of gracefulness and aggressiveness, and the sheer beauty of seeing a goal scored: How could I resist falling in love with hockey?
Furthermore, I discovered that night that hockey fans are awesome. During the second intermission, I made friends with the gentlemen sitting to my left; recognizing my hillfolk twang as not exactly being Nebraskan, they asked where I was from, to which I replied, "West Virginia." They then proceeded to tell me about the time thirty years ago when they went to "Reston, Virginia," a suburb of DC, for job training and how their training hadn't allowed enough time for them to tour the capital itself. Normally, the failure of my conversation companions to recognize the Dub-Vee as its own state irreversibly shrivels a portion of my soul; this time, however, I recognized something important about my hockey brethren: They will talk to anyone about anything. Why? Because we instantly recognize one another as kickass human beings, simply from the preliminary knowledge that we prioritize our life as follows:
4. Interpersonal relationships
6. Gainful employment
7. Sanitary awareness of one's own person
And you know, it really works out well: For example, if a hockey game is on, but you've missed dinner, you tough it out until intermission. If a hockey game is on and you realize you haven't showered in four days, tough shit. Go big or go the fuck home. If your children don't understand the value of getting the fuck out of the way of the TV during overtime, guess who's going to stay at Grandma's for a week or ten? That's right: Unless it's hot, rabid sex which warrants DVR-ing the game for later viewing, nothing gets between hockey fans and the game.
Bottom line: That game changed my life. It started the course that brought me to this point, presenting you with blather and sharing the Red Wings love. Not to mention it brought the relationship between the other half of TSO and myself to another dimension--since my conversion, we enjoy the sport together, as fans. (Obviously, we're not encouraging the merging of all hobbies/interests with those of your significant other; the After-School Special Department of TSO encourages us to remind you to maintain your own identity for the duration of all romantic endeavors. For fuck's sake, do you really think I make myself suffer through Ballin' B's horrible audio compilation of the Shins' greatest hits?)