How I came to love hockey

In honor of Sidney Crosby's second comeback from his concussion-recurrence symptoms, I thought I would share how I came to love hockey.

I "discovered" hockey when I was a freshman at Penn State, from 1989 to 1990. Growing up 45 miles east of Pittsburgh, I certainly knew of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they just weren't that good (in fact in the '80s, they were pretty bad), plus hockey was not exactly in vogue back then. The only player I had heard of was Mario Lemieux, but his greatest was not enough to get me interested in hockey prior to my going to college.

But Penn State, on the other hand, had a great team in the Icers. They won many games by a touchdown or more, and they were just fun to watch. The sports complex was small, so you could easily see where the puck was at all times, the lack of which has turned off many a would-be fan. Because I was a poor college student, I could not afford to go to many games, so my sophomore year I smartly joined the Hockey Management Association. I became a ticket taker, thus allowing me to see the games for free (after missing bits and pieces of the first period while I was still taking tickets).

Coincidentally, the Penguins started on a roll my sophomore year, and they won their first Stanley Cup that summer. Now I had two great teams to love and follow. It was about that time that I fell in love with Mark Recchi, admittedly because I thought he was cute. I saved up money that summer working at the family video store and bought a Recchi jersey. It was the most expensive thing I had bought up until that time.

Unfortunately, Recchi was traded to the Flyers my junior year. I remember well walking into one of my education classes the next day, wearing my Recchi jersey. At least two people came up to me and asked how I was doing. You would have thought a friend had died. Despite that dark moment in my hockey love, my enthusiasm for the Penguins continued.

In December of 1993, one of my students from the school where I was student teaching had an extra Penguins-Flyers ticket. She and her grandparents, whom she may have lived with, said if I took her, I could have the ticket for free. [As an aside, I am pretty sure in the 21st century, a student teacher would not take a student anywhere, though technically I had finished that program a week or two earlier.]

It started off great, even before the game. We got to meet Mark Recchi, as he and his Flyers teammates were walking out of the hotel over to the Civic Arena. He signed my jersey, and my former student took our picture (see below). I snapped some pics of other players as well. The game itself was awesome; with our good seats we could easily see all the action. And I also seem to recall my former student ended up getting a stick from one of the players after the game was over.

Wish I hadn't ripped this old pic from the frame. But aren't we a cute couple?!
Since then I have gone to only about a half dozen Penguins' games, but I do try to watch the majority of them in the comfort of my own home, on my HD TV. But through it all, I have never forgotten what Mario Lemieux has done for the team. He plucked them from obscurity, played phenomenal hockey, later bought the team to allow them to remain in Pittsburgh, and fought to get the Penguins a new arena so they would stay here for the long run. You can read about some of Mario's life and contributions in a Bluzdude post, over here.

In fact, Bluz's post was the inspiration for my latest thank-you note. Since I kind of cheated on my last thank-you note and sent only an email, I knew I needed to get out pen and paper (remember those things that people used to use before technology took over the world?!). I was trying to think of someone who deserved some appreciation, and Mario seemed like an excellent candidate.

So earlier this week, I penned off a note to him, telling him how I came to love hockey (it was obviously much shorter that this post). I also mentioned how my eight-year-old now shares some of that love, which was fostered by her school attending a practice last year. Most importantly, I thanked him for saving the team both as a player and an owner and for his wanting to remain in Pittsburgh.

I am not sure he will even read it; chances are he has admin people who look through that stuff. But hopefully someone will let him know that a fan took the time to say a nice thing or two and it will mean a little something to him, even if only for a few seconds. But if not, I am okay with that. I said what I wanted to and showed some appreciation, which is the point of my thank-you note project.

Now on to something more important: Let's go Pens! And Sidney, please, please stay healthy and injury-free.


bluzdude said…
Lovely post, Facie, and I was going to say so even before I got to the part where you threw me the good pub.
Facie said…
Thanks, Bluz! But as lovely as the young couple in the photo?! :-)
I totally needed to read this!

My 4yo son just told me that he wants to be a hockey player when he grows up. My husband and I are huge sports fans, but have never gotten into hockey. (It's weird: I like football, but something about the checking in hockey makes me nervous.) Maybe I need to give it another chance!

Just for you: go Penguins!
Facie said…
Kristen: Given the prevalence of concussions (or at least they are talked about more), I can see your being nervous about hockey. The fighting and scary checking/boarding aside, it really is an exciting sport to watch!

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