I’ll confess, I didn’t pay much attention when I was really young. For whatever reason, but probably due to a combination of Mario and Ninja Turtles, there wasn’t much room for the NHL. But at some point in high school, I began to catch on. Names like Yzerman, Lidstrom, Osgood, and Federov became familiar. We won the Stanley Cup twice in a row, my Sophomore and Junior years. But in the midst of youth group, concerts (both attending: ska, and singing: choir), and work, I didn’t have much time/resources to naturally become a “Superfan”. Nevertheless, it was there, ebbing and flowing with the seasons.
Moving into early adulthood, one truly begins to “pick and choose” the hobbies, habits, and connections to embrace/strengthen, and which ones we allow to fade into the past. More and more, the connections and memories I had of that winged wheel and it’s members resurfaced as the hockey season became a sort of “Fifth Season” in the midst of all others. As Scotty Bowman became Dave Lewis became Mike Babcock, my enthusiasm and pulse for the Detroit Redwings was strengthened.
I remember my senior year of college, wanting to see a Wings’ game in Chicago so badly, but not knowing how I’d work out the details. What would any hockey fan do in that situation? I organized a group of 40 people who wanted to go, and even invited the college president and his wife. It became an official “Campus Event”, which meant free use of the “Tiger Bus”. As the gentleman in front of us spilled his beer while yelling a slew of curse-words at my team, Dr. John Bowling turned to me and noted, “Hockey sure brings out the best in people, eh?” with a smile on his face.
I still wouldn’t put myself in the category of someone who always knows the updates or stats on any given player/gameday. I don’t have ESPN (or NBC Sports), I don’t read the sports page of any newspaper, and so I miss most of the regular season games. But I’m generally aware of what’s happening, cheering my team on, and as was the case this year: starting an early playoff beard when February had us wondering if we’d make the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season. (We totally did. My face itches, but it’s only crazy if it doesn’t work, right?)
Playoff season arrives, and it’s like the season has officially begun. The brackets get printed, with real-time updates on the fridge. IBC will be purchased, with one bottle allowed per game (overtime = 1 extra). The game stick will hopefully stay “blade up” in our living room, meaning the Wings won their most recent match. My wife becomes thankful as she realizes I’m only this crazy during playoffs, and not the entire season – as some fans might be.
My kids will get excited with me, and every year it’s neat to see the new levels of information they’re able to process/respond to. As we watched the final minutes of the Blues game this past Sunday she told me, “But it would’ve been okay even if we’d lost, because we already had enough points to make playoffs, right dad?” I kissed her.
I know that someday, my kids will end up growing old enough to leave the house. They’ll build lives of their own, and make decisions on what to embrace and what to let go from their past. Of first priority, is that they’ll fashion a home where the heart and ways of Christ are foundational. But if somewhere in there, there was a bit of the winged wheel, and the quickened pulse of a playoff sudden-death overtime….I’d be a proud father, for sure. 🙂