Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hockey Life: Week 28

Because I've been a gypsy journalist, working at papers large and small along the Eastern Seaboard, I've had the opportunity to follow a number of NHL teams -- the Carolina Hurricanes (the first two seasons after relocating from Hartford, when they were practically giving away tickets), Boston Bruins and, now, the Tampa Bay Lightning. It doesn't mean, though, they're my favorite team.

The honor, for better or worse, goes to the Buffalo Sabres. From the days of the French Connection to Donny Edwards to Ryan Miller, I've always bled blue, yellow and white.

That doesn't mean, though, that I can't, or won't root, for other teams, especially when living or working in a particular city, save for when the Sabres come to town. To me, it's a right of being a hockey fan.

This issue has come to the surface recently, at home and on Facebook, over my stated hopes that the Lightning beat the Bruins in the Eastern Conference final. It seems I'm the only one in the house, besides the cats, who isn't rooting for the Bruins. And after a couple of pointed posts at Facebook, it's apparent I've stepped on a few toes.

My response requires only two words: tough beans.

For one, once the Sabres were knocked out, I wasn't going to sit idly on the sidelines. I'm too much of a hockey fan to not have a dog in the fight. So, for a couple of reasons, I'm sticking with the Bolts.

In two tours of duty, so to speak, I've lived in the Tampa Bay area for nearly as long as I have in western New York. I may have been a kid in Machias, N.Y., but I grew up down here in Hockey Bay. It's where my favorite Bruins fan learned to skate and plays his hockey, too. And given that the Lightning has enjoyed a truly remarkable turnaround this season, it's not hard to appreciate the team's fortunes.

As for Boston, well, that's a different story.

I really love the city itself. It's steeped in history; you can walk on the very same streets as America's first patriots. It's great for people-watching, as its international appeal and many top-rate universities make the Hub of the Universe moniker deserving. And the Public Garden is one of the coolest places I've ever visited (I even know of one spot where you can sit, in summer's full bloom, and not see a single bit of the city).

The fact that Colin was born near Beantown and grew up watching the Bruins, including his favorite NHL buddy Patrice Bergeron, practice and play, from Wilmington, Mass., to Boston and from Brandon, Fla., to Tampa, made it easy to cheer for the Bruins, but only when they weren't playing the Sabres and, now, the Lightning.

My biggest reason for abandoning the Bruins in this series raised its ugly head last night. With the Lightning holding a commanding lead in the third period, I was appalled by the spacious gaps of empty gold seats at the TD Banknorth Garden. Rather than stay to the end and boo their team, as any loyal hockey fan worth his or her salt would do, the "fans" left. Unfortunately, a few knuckleheads stayed behind, throwing debris (playoff towels, perhaps?) at the Lightning players at game's end.

And then you have the cheap-shot sucker punches thrown by Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. Sure, it stinks getting embarrassed on your home ice. Rather than man up, admit that they weren't prepared and dedicate themselves to Game 2, all these two clowns did was disgrace themselves, their team and fans with their selfish actions.

In both cases, it only solidified my decision to root for the Lightning. I made sure, as a father and a hockey dad, that Colin knew the fans' and players' actions, were teaching moments on how NOT to act.

For that, I'm appreciative. Go Bolts!


  1. I was thinking about you guys this past week. I was curious to see which teams you each would be siding with.

    Hopefully, the series turns out to be as exciting as these teams can produce.

    Dare I say 'Win, win' in this instance?

  2. He's a bit torn. He wanted to switch teams, game by game or period by period, but I told him he couldn't. You pick a team, even if it isn't your favorite, and stick with it.

    Bottom line, he's loyal to Patrice. He's rooted for the Lightning most every time, save for the Bruins.

    Now, let's just hope Patrice makes the trip.

  3. 2nd Paragraph: GO SABRES!!!

  4. Before you get too anti-late-game-physicality from the Bruins, need I remind you of the 1988 playoff series between the B's and Sabres that featured a lot of the same kind of stuff from both sides? Six games, 23 fights, problems with the crowd in both buildings, 3 definite cheap shots, and at least 2 injuries. Roughing up the Lightning in the final minutes of Game 1 is nothing compared to that.

    Besides, Hedman has it coming after the hit from behind that put Crosby out. Karma strikes at odd times (though I think he took a major flop on Lucic's punch).

  5. Yes, Drew, you needed to remind me. As for Crosby, I think Steckel's hit had more to do with Crosby's ills than Hedman's. If anything, Hedman needs to become a more phyical player.