It's Happy Hockey Talk Day and because I'm all for happiness, and I'm especially fond of hockey, I will be a willing participant.
When I started watching hockey in the 90s, it quickly became apparent that this wonderful game on ice would only be so much fun if I were watching alone. However, if I could find somebody to watch with me, well, the joy would be endless. (If I sound like I'm trying to pull adjectives out of nowhere then mission accomplished.)
My dad was never a huge sports fan and I knew that he was busy anyway. Instead, I turned to my mom. Here she was, a native of Philadelphia who wasn't a big sports fan, but she was certainly more open to it. I'm not sure exactly how it started, but pretty soon, I was reading The Hockey News along with several other weekly/monthly hockey publications. With the help of the publications and my local newspaper, I gradually began the process of transforming my mom into a hockey fanatic.
We started easy - a quiz.
"Who is leading the league in goals?"
"And what team does he play for?"
"The Pittsburgh what?"
And on it went. Acting like a little drill sergeant, I made sure that mom knew the league's leading scorers each and every week and that she also knew what teams they played for and what position they played. When I felt as though she had made enough progress, we entered a more advanced realm of the game - the rules.
I won't take the time to express how difficult it was to explain offsides or why players weren't allowed to simply pick up the puck and toss it into the net, but I'm sure you can imagine. Of course, by having my mom watch countless Flyers games and highlights on NHL2Night, it was clear that the transformation was almost complete.
Pretty soon, my mom was willing to take me to a couple of games a year, watch games on TV,(and tune in to watch the boys on NHL2Night afterwards) and even read The Hockey News after I was through.
She developed her own favorites, independent of my own. Contrary to my hatred for the Flyers, my mom grew up in Philadelphia and naturally rooted for them. Knowing my love for the Avs, she also became interested in the team Colorado and pretty soon, became a bigger Avs fan than Flyers fan. Her favorite players included some of the most prominent players of the 90s. Eric Lindros, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Kariya, and Joe Sakic were always very high on her list. She loved watching Grant Fuhr and eventually detested Scott Stevens after he had his final say on Lindros's career. She booed when the Wings won in 2002 and again when the Devils won in 2003.
Then the lockout hit.
Now with the prominent players of the 90s fading into obscurity and a new cast of young talent taking over the game, it appears as though I'll need to get back to square one if I want my mom to return to her once "hockey fanatical" status. She can still name you the goaltender of the Devils and the top defenseman on the Wings, but ask her who Sean Avery is or who the Capitals goaltender is and you might be getting answers of "who cares?" and "Olaf Kolzig." (On the Sean Avery question, "who cares?" might actually work in the place of "moron.")
It doesn't matter. When I scream at the TV during the playoffs or when I'm up until 2 AM watching a double OT thriller, my mom understands. She knows what hockey is, how exciting it can be, and that there is nothing more special than a Game 7 in the NHL. It doesn't matter that Jagr has moved on to some league in Russia and Eric Lindros is no longer getting crushed along the boards. She became a hockey fan. And once you're a hockey fan, you're always a hockey fan.