Two weeks earlier, my Aunt Gayle gave me tickets for my 14th birthday. By the time I went to the game on Feb. 10, I had only been a hockey fan for about a month. But it was going to an actual live game that made me a “Puck Junkie 4 Life”.
I was in eighth grade. It was me, my Aunt Gayle, my Uncle Pat and my best friend at the time, Bill Fallon. Bill was big and not too bright, but he was tough and always had my back. I got decent grades and helped him with his homework. I guess that made him McSorley and me Gretzky.
Anyway, I would love to say that I remember every detail of this momentous occasion, but that is not the case. One thing that still stays with me to this day is how the players majestically glided on the ice during the warm-ups, and later in the game. Forward, backward, changing direction so smoothly you don’t even notice it. How much faster hockey is when seen in person. How hard the missed shots would ricochet around the boards.
And how freaking loud that foghorn was at “old” Chicago Stadium. I nearly spilled my soda the first time that thing sounded off.
I remember drinking pop and eating Beer Nuts and hot dogs, buying two “Lil’ Sports Brats” keychains, a pennant, a puck, program, guide and record book, and a nice ink pen with the ‘Hawks jersey illustrated on the cap. Or more accurately, I remember my Uncle Pat buying all of this for me.
Bill bought one of this red foam finger thingies for $7, but a few years later I’d end up acquiring it from him (not sure why, though).
But the game–THE GAME! I remember the overwhelming “head-rush” of excitement as 17.000-plus fans jumped to their feet when goals were scored. I remember everyone yelling, screaming, cheering when a fight broke out. I remember the reverberating echo as a ‘Hawks player checked an Islander into the boards.
I don’t remember the score.
Fortunately, the ’89-90 Blackhawks media guide does. The ‘Hawks won 3-1. Alain Chevrier was in net for Chicago, and Everitt Sanipass scored the game-winning goal.
I wish I had a photo from that game, but I don’t. I did not save a box score, either. I’d love to know who else scored, who tended net for the Isles, who got into that fight or fights?
I did save my ticket stub, which tells me I was in the mezzanine, section N, row R, seat 23. That would be about 48 rows away from the ice (the Club Circle was 30 rows, I believe). I now remember being annoyed that I could not see the big scoreboard over center ice because the first balcony above blocked my view of it (the balconies were “stacked” on top of the mezzanine).
About two months after that fateful game, I would take a placement test for high school “honors” English. I wrote about going to that game, and was accepted into the Advanced Placement program. Either the teachers assessing our essays were hockey fans, or this was the Hockey Gods’ way of telling me to be a hockey writer…a path I never tried to follow until recently.
Other than writing about how the players effortlessly glided across the ice, I don’t remember what my essay said. Even though a lot of details have been lost to time, going to my first hockey game remains one of my coolest, fondest memories ever.