i'm the biggest hockey fan you know ... probably. i mean i know a lot of hardcore hockey fans and i don't think i'm the biggest hockey fan that I know but i'm kind of assuming that you don't know the same guys that i know.
i don't remember a time when i was not a hockey fan. like every other kid i played my share of street hockey with the boys where you had to learn the nuances of the self pass off the curb and the triple deke backhand top shelf jaw dropping showoff that becomes your centerpiece move. i grew in a small city halfway between Toronto and Montreal. it was a little burgh at the bottom of the Ottawa Valley that was very Loyalist politically and more loyalist to their hockey team. in my town everyone was either a Leafs fan or a Habs fan, until the time eventually came that the Senators joined the NHL and then loyalties shifted in town somewhat. when i was growing up though the Sens were not in existence so you loved your team and you hated the other one that was close by. my best friend was a Habs fan and i was a Leafs fan so we had our own little wars whenever the two clubs met for battle. i call them "Raspberry Wars" because whenever your team scored you'd give the other guy a very significant and saliva filled raspberry so that if your team got blown out then you'd need a shower after the game because you were covered in the other guy's spit. yeah, i know that's gross but i was 14 or so and you'd put up with a lot to support your team. unfortunately those were years that the Leafs were awful and the Habs were really good so i definitely put up with a LOT.
it used to be that folks from our church would go to Montreal once a year to watch the Oilers play the Habs. i wasn't terribly interested in the matchup but it was my first real NHL game so i wasn't going to miss out even if it meant that i could see this Gretzky guy play and cheer against the Habs for a couple hours. nobody seemed to be interested in going to Toronto for a game or getting tickets when the Leafs came to Montreal for a visit so i was actually an adult before i ever got tickets to attend a Leafs game and actually i had to win those since i was WAY too poor to afford tickets myself.
after high school i moved to Kitchener Ontario for Bible College and then i stayed there to work, get married and eventually attend the University of Waterloo. K-W was an excellent place to live but the only hockey fix i could get would be to go watch the Junior team play on Friday nights or to catch my Leafs on the tube on Saturday night. good luck trying to get tickets or afford tickets in the Toronto area. when i was dating and engaged to Wendy she was in college in Winnipeg and i actually came out to visit her on one occasion so she took me to the only Jets game i ever got to see. they played the Sabres and it was joy to see Hawerchuk play ... although they had just traded him to Buffalo to get Phil Housley so actually i never got to see the best Jet ever to play for the team while he was actually a Jet.
Wendy and i lived in Waterloo for 4 years before we began the trek west to find better work for us both. we lived for a miserable year in northwest Ontario and we finally moved to Winnipeg as the flood of '96 abated. that was also the very time that the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix. i moved to town and the hockey team moves out, our moving van passed theirs on the way out of town (figuratively). not cool. i was pleased to be in Winnipeg, we became homeowners for the first time of our lives and we joined a marvelous church community that has been the best church experience of our adult lives but still, i had no hockey team i could watch except for continued Saturday nights on tv.
Winnipeg was all abuzz yesterday as it was announced that the NHL was returning to this city. today is the first day of my life in which i reside in the same place as an NHL team. it still isn't determined what the name of our NHL entry will be but i would say that 90% of Peggers are demanding that the team be named the Jets. there is some talk that the owners want to move in a new direction and avoid the stigma of failure that was associated with the Jets but in truth there is such abounding love for that team name that i don't see how they could possibly call the team anything but the Jets. the ticket prices are reasonable but at the same time it seems unlikely that we'll be spending more than enough for me to see a couple games per season. there's always a tv package of some kind though, maybe we could swing that more easily.
anyway, i'm a happy boy today. i wore my Jets jersey to work and it is definitely getting me noticed whenever i walk into a room. seriously, i'm the hit of the party just by showing up.
GO JETS GO