Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Hockey Eve...

No joke... the Bruins' season starts tonight. Here in the sunny Southland, it's 90 degrees and humid. The only place you're going to find ice is in your sweet tea. Nevertheless, the puck drops in four hours at Madison Square Garden, kicking off another pursuit of Lord Stanley.

Story time! In late September of 1997, the Bruins opened their preseason against Florida. The game was played in Charlotte, home of the Bruins' ECHL affiliate, in front of a crowd of a few thousand. I was 15 at the time, freshly enamored with the sport of hockey, and stood in awe of REAL NHL HOCKEY in my own hometown arena. The otherwise-meaningless exhibition carried one significant footnote: it was the first time that the world saw young phenoms Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov in a Bruins uniform.

In the 50-year-old Independence Arena, which was not built with professional hockey in mind, any fan could freely loiter around the locker room doors and talk to the players as they came in and out. One of my most cherished hockey memories is seeing Thornton and Samsonov, twin first-round picks who carried the weight of an Original Six franchise on their shoulders, marching purposefully down the thin rubber runway toward the ice. It was the beginning of a new era, and it happened in the most unlikely of times and places.

Of course, I wish that the Thornton Era hadn't left such a bitter aftertaste. But that moment of gravity impressed upon me that hockey is a game for all people, and can grow in even the most balmy climates... as long as the game becomes meaningful to those in attendance.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: