I’ve been a hockey fan for 25 years today

sal_1989Most hockey fans don’t remember how long they’ve been a fan of the sport, because hockey was always there, always a part of their life. But for me, growing up in Chicago, it was different. The first time I saw a Blackhawks game was 25 years ago today — purely by accident.

The ‘Hawks did not televise their home games in the 1970s and 1980s. They did televise road games, but only on cable. In fact, all NHL games were buried on cable in the United States back in the 1980s, grossly limiting the sport’s exposure.

How would a kid like me know about hockey if I couldn’t see it? Sadly, I didn’t know much of anything about this game. It seemed weird and cool, like a myth or a figment of my imagination. It was played on ice with sticks and players wore masks and had strange team names like Blackhawks, North Stars and Canadiens.

In early 1989, my family got cable TV; a perfect storm of it finally being offered in our neighborhood and my Mom having enough disposable income to afford it. On January 12 of that year, I was channel surfing between two shows when I accidentally put on a hockey game — the last few minutes of the Chicago Blackhawks losing to the Buffalo Sabres. I still remember that exact moment very well. After that game, there was another: L.A. Kings vs. St. Louis Blues. I watched as much of it as I could until bedtime.

Two days later, I tuned into the next Blackhawks game, a 5-3 win over the New York Islanders. Immediately afterward was the Kings (again) vs. the Hartford Whalers. After that, I was hooked. I watched every single game on TV that I could watch — any team on any night.

Later that month, my Aunt bought me tickets for my 14th birthday and took me to my first live game, which was the Blackhawks against (coincidentally) the Islanders. At this point, I was a fan for exactly less than one full month, and yet I knew more about hockey than baseball, football and basketball combined.

Soon, I convinced my friends in the neighborhood to buy hockey sticks, and we started playing street hockey every weekend and all summer long. I spent all my 8th grade graduation money on several complete sets of hockey cards, and my Mom bought me my first pair of ice skates.

And the rest, they say, is history.


Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

8 thoughts on “I’ve been a hockey fan for 25 years today”

  1. You’re right Sal–I don’t remember when I became a fan–hockey was just there and has been a part of my life for almost 60 years

    1. Al, I am right because I based this blog post partially on what you told me 5 years ago (when I wrote about “first contact” with hockey). So, you inspired this blog post 🙂

  2. Yeah, I’m 21 (almost 22) Hockey has always been there. But it started because my parents would take me to watch my older brother play and it was a fast sport that was very enjoyable for someone with add. But to that first caught my eye was the goalies and all the equipment they had on. At the games I would ALWAYS stand behind the goalies and watch their every move. Later I would read books on goalies like Patrick Roy and then take up the position of playing goalie for my house league teams.

    Now on the NHL hockey, since there was no Blackhawks coverage or anything in the late 90’s I followed Roy and his Colorado team with Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. I first started with the Hawks in the 1999-2000 season with Jocelyn Thibualt, Steve Sullivan, Tony Amonte, Bob Probert and Alex Zhamnov. The Fighting, hitting and all the fast paced action of professional hockey got me hooked. So ever since then I have been a HUGE hockey fan.

    With Collecting hockey cards, My brother was a fellow collector of Hockey, Basketball and some baseball, so I eventually took some of his hockey cards and seeing the colors and designs of the cards I’ve always wanted to collect.

    I am REALLY sorry for a long story but It is my full

  3. Great story to remember and to share Sal! You’re lucky to have such a nice “first encounter” to recall.
    For my part, as for many others, hockey as been in my life for ever…all my 36 years… I have pictures of myself sitting in a baby chair at 6 months old wearing Montreal Canadiens jersey and hat and olding a small hockey stick in one hand and a puck in the other. Some other pictures showing me lying on my father’s back, who is himself lying on his belly in front of the television watching hockey. He show me how to skate when I was 3 years old and I never stopped playing hockey since. Played until junior hockey in Sherbrooke, but I had to quit competition after several dislocated shoulder injury. Now playing in some smaller league. As for the link with hockey cards, again my father is involved. I remember having a shoe box with some hockey cards in it, but my father bought me my first complet set in 1990.. the 1990-91 Score set. Again, never stopped since. My father past away last summer, but I have so many good story about him and hockey. I could write about it for too many pages that I will stop here.
    Just hope that I can transfert this love of hockey to my two daughters!

  4. My dad used to have an old “original” blue Pens practice jersey from back in the mid-1970s. I was quite worn and a little tattered but overall, it was still in good shape. I remember him wearing it a lot and after my 6th birthday, he gave it to me. It was a dress…but I loved it. I would wear it to hockey practice. That jersey was my catalyst.

  5. Great post Sal, always amazing when someone can remember to the day when they became a hockey fan! Growing up in Canada hockey has always been around. But it wasn’t until I was about 8 years old I decided to start picking my teams and it was a Christmas gift that year that helped me choose the Devils.

    I got a rod hockey table (deluxe version with scoreboard) from my Dad and Step-mother for Christmas. It was pretty awesome, except I never had anyone to play against as my Dad didn’t really care for that kind of game and my sister was pretty much useless there too. However, I remember looking at all the emblems on the side and just in awe of all their symbols and the different teams in the NHL (21 at the time). I decided after scanning the side that the New Jersey Devils would be my team and went upstairs to find a newspaper and check the standings to see they were one of the worst in the league. That didn’t faze me any though and I cheered hard that season and sure enough I was rewarded with a Cinderella playoff run in the spring of 1988. Been hooked on Devils and the NHL ever since.

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