OT Thread Part VII : Tips and Tricks Edition
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12-12-2012, 08:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: New York
I just want to be ABLE to go right now. My god I miss my sport.
I'm sure you guys are all just as passionate and miss the game just as much, but in light of the disappointment from today's negotiations, excuse me while I vent my sorrows for a moment.
I am 26 years old. I was raised on hockey. My dad played until he was 15. My uncle played in college and then in Germany. I went to my first game at MSG when I was 2. At 3, we moved from Queens to Huntington (Suffolk) and five months later, a new house was built on the empty lot directly next to ours and the new neighbors moved in: David Volek and his young wife. Volek was an Islander and a very nice and friendly guy and really good neighbor (my parents were extremely nice, welcoming and helpful to a young foreign couple just starting, not only their lives in a new country, but their marriage as well) and he took me in instantly. I was at the Volek's house daily, playing hockey with David in the garage and the basement. He cut his sticks down for me, let me take his gloves and helmet back to my house over night, gave me pucks, jerseys, etc.
Obviously, he gave me a ton of actual tips and coaching as well and after a little while, when my parents knew him better, they started letting him take me to practice with him. I was in the Islander's locker room regularly and on the ice at the Coliseum at a very young age. Now not only David but guys like Pat Flatley, Steve Thomas, Mick Vokuta, Glen Heally, Pat LaFontaine, Scott Lachance and so many others all became coaches and idols. Most of them were over David's house a lot too, so I saw a lot of them and they were all super nice to me. Pat LaFontaine used to let my parents come over and use his pool and jacuzzi after a while. In case you couldn't do the math, all of this meant that by the time I was 5 or 6, I was so deeply infected with hockey, to my very core, that it was virtually the only thing I talked about. I collected hockey cards, insisted on watching every game on TV, regardless of who was playing, only asked for jerseys, cards, posters and gear for holidays, etc.
By 6 I was playing in a youth league. By 8 I was playing in two. By 9 I had favorite players on every single team in the league and had more stats memorized than it's believable for a 9 year old kid to know (my dad was a financial genius so I inherited a talent for stats and numbers). But at 9 David also was forced to retire due to back injuries. It stunk, but we still had connections to get to a lot of games and get me in the locker room occasionally for a couple of more years before that era of my life would be over. David and his family (he'd had a daughter a year or so after moving in and a son right before he retired) moved back to CZ, or Florida (can't remember, he ended up scouting for the Panthers for a while, but I don't remember if they moved back to Europe first or straight to Florida) but we kept in touch via letters for a while (we didn't even have email yet back then!).
Also at this time, the Rangers had just won the Stanley Cup so... despite having so much exposure to Islanders and receiving so much kindness from them my young, bandwagoning self became a big time Rangers fan (though, keep in mind, my family had been Rangers fans back in Queens, when I went to my first game before moving to LI - we attended some Rangers games even when David was our neighbor). I would also become a big Avalanche fan when they got their team, coming out of the first lockout and a huge Peter Forsberg fan. They were my second team for like a decade, until Forsberg went to NSH/PHI. Anyhow, I kept playing hockey and collecting cards, memorabilia and jerseys. I wrote to my favorite players regularly and watched more hockey than everything else combined. Most kids had favorite shows and cartoons and movies. I watched hockey. Most kids played video games; I played hockey ones. I'd end up getting to meet Forsberg at the Coliseum after he scored an OT winner one day after my birthday in like 2000. I ended up meeting dozens more NHL players because I would get my parents to take me to all kinds of events and appearances, or beg my dad to wait after games for autographs. I also accumulated a pretty massive card and memorabilia collection over the years.
By the time I was 12 I was playing really competitive travel hockey for a few teams. By the time I was 14 my closest friend Tim Kunes went to play juniors and my family had the discussion about whether I could/would go that route or stay home and play high school hockey. In the end, I was very hesitant about the idea of going to live with a host family and leaving the comforts of home and so I went the high school route. In high school, because I hadn't tried entering the draft for the CHL, my parents thought it was best that I consider hockey no more than a serious hobby and that I try other sports as well since hockey was a bit of a niche sport and not very popular at my school (we had to share our team with two other high schools to field a full roster). I always watched football with my dad on Sundays (unless hockey was on at the same time) so I went out for the high school football team. Then my friends all started playing lacrosse and I saw the immediate similarities with hockey, so I played that too. I never stopped playing hockey, or being completely obsessed with it, but since my school's hockey program wasn't great and my parents were very realistic and honest with me, I let the dream of pursuing hockey as a career go and focused on the other sports too.
I still wanted to do something like be a hockey writer or do marketing for the NHL. I eventually chose my major (journalism/public relations) for those reasons. Even today, I think about taking my LSAT and going to law school to become an agent. I played college hockey and was a decent, unremarkable player and even an assistant captain in my senior year. I've coached hockey and worked at hockey camps several times since turning 17 or so. I have a massive hockey memorabilia and jersey collection and I still play pickup hockey 2+ times weekly with a bunch of ex-college and junior players. My girlfriend is a big hockey fan (we ended up together because we were at a mutual friend's new years party, where I was pursuing a different girl and I overheard her talking about Leetch and Richter and started chatting her up) and a big part of our relationship is in going to games, watching games on TV, traveling to other arenas to see games, collecting hockey stuff together and going to Rangers related events. Even so, she sometimes loses it with me and yells "all you talk about is hockey! even during the lockout!".
And it's true. All I talk about is hockey. All I think about is hockey. I bought the new Assassin's Creed the day it came out and I love that series. I still haven't finished it because I can't put down NHL 13 long enough to get through it, and there's not even a season going on this year. I have several Rangers jerseys, including a beautiful authentic Callahan and i still asked for a Girardi jersey for Christmas. I can tell you virtually every player on every team in the NHL (or at least name, for almost every team, the main 20 players they'll dress this season), what position they play, what number they are, roughly how much their salary is, roughly how many points they had last season and what type of game the play, and do the same for the top 5+ prospects on every team in the league. No cheating, no looking it up. In short, I am the biggest hockey fan I know, and the biggest hockey fan that anyone I know personally knows. My friends that play hockey, even the ones who played college and juniors, even the ones who are better than me, tell me I'm a freak for liking hockey as much as I do. I fall asleep with 24/7 playing in the background most nights. I just pop the disc in before I'm ready to go to sleep, dim the screen on my TV, turn the volume down and watch until I pass out each night. My girlfriend is used to it; she knows she's dating an insane person.
Basically, what I'm trying to say is: I am suffering. I'm a miserable, moody, emotionally unpredictable train-wreck. Give me back my ****ing NHL hockey, dammit.
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