In a sense, knowledgeable hockey fans are one, big fraternity. It doesn't matter what colors we wear, where we're from or where we sit, we all pledge our allegiance to understanding the sport of hockey. This point was never so clear last Thursday when Colin and I attended, on the spur of a moment, the Toronto Maple Leafs-Tampa Bay Lightning game down here in Hockey Bay.
It's well documented that I'm not the biggest fan of the Loafs. Growing up a Sabres fan in Western New York, (specifically, south of Buffalo, in tiny Machias), where the Loafs are as welcome as 12 feet of snow, saw to that. Nor am I able to, mainly because of my allegiance to the Sabres, completely wrap my arms around our current hometown Bolts.
It was the game, certainly not the teams, that prompted my decision to spring for a 10-ticket flex pack and, subsequently, use two to attend the Loafs-Bolts game. Simply, it was as close as we'll ever get to a game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. I wanted us to experience the flavor of a Loafs game, no matter its location, seeing that the team's reach stretches far beyond Canada's border. There's something, I believe, to hearing "Go Leafs Go!" shouted by the faithful at least once in one's hockey life.
As fate would have it, we ended up sitting next to a family of Loafs fans. Nice people, too. Colin and the youngest son hit it off well, talking hockey and even sharing a $4 giant peanut-butter cookie. The parents were more than pleasant, sharing their experiences of attending games at the ACC (one ticket there was more expensive than the five they bought in Tampa, they said) and that, unlike here in Hockey Bay, home games are shown on a premium cable TV channel.
Even though the Bolts won an increasingly exciting game with less than 10 seconds in overtime, I found myself somewhat disappointed. It was one of the most enjoyable nights I've ever had at a hockey game down here in Hockey Bay, finally getting the chance to talk with knowledgeable fans who truly understand the game while taking in one of the NHL's most storied Original Six franchises. I didn't want it to end.
Really, it didn't matter who we were rooting for. All that mattered was that it was a hockey game with real hockey fans, those who don't need a bubblehead emcee, dance teams, mascots and scoreboard prompts to "Make Some Noise" to make it an entertaining night out.
And that, my friends, is what being a member of the hockey fraternity is all about. It's the game, not the nonsense, that drives us. Sadly, not everyone, nor every team, gets this point.
Final (grumpy) request
After two installments for Your Turn, contributions have dropped off. Really, I can't understand the reason behind this. For four-plus seasons, I've shared many, many hounding adventures with readers. All I'm asking, and it's a reasonable request, is for you to now return the favor.
If I don't get any, this will be yet another feature -- just like Name that Logo, Hockey Quiz and What's This? -- that has run its course because of limited submissions or the lack of participation.
Responses to these requests go a long way toward deciding to continue with this blog. Lord knows there are better uses of my time. As it stands, Hound Central 5.0 will be my last hockey-hounding blog. Simply put, the returns fall far short the efforts put in by myself and others.
5 Big Sigs
It'll be an interesting week down here in Hockey Bay, with the Montreal Canadiens making their second and final trip of the season and the Anaheim Ducks swinging through the Sunshine State. We didn't have the best of luck with the Habs less than a month ago and, from what I've heard, the Ducks can be a tad tough.
Still, here's what we're hoping to add:
~ Montreal's Mike Cammalleri on a Canadiens puck and the Manchester Monarchs practice jersey;
~ Montreal's Andrei Markov on Russia souvenir and Quebec Citadelles pucks;
~ Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Steve Eminger on the Portland Pirates practice jersey;
~ Anaheim's Saku Koivu on a Ducks puck; and
~ Anaheim's Dan Sexton on a Wichita Falls Wildcats (North American Hockey League) puck.