I’m Excited About Hockey?

Being excited or even knowing that the hockey season is starting is something I wouldn’t have done years ago.

Our hockey season begins tonight when the Nashville Predators open their 2019-2020 season against the Minnesota Wild.

Growing up in the South, the sport of ice hockey wasn’t known that well.  For me it has mostly been football, basketball and baseball.  It wasn’t until the late 70s that I watched a hockey game on television when the Atlanta Flames were playing.  I followed the drama when the Flames were sold and moved to Calgary.  I remember that at one point it was rumored that actor Glenn Ford would buy the team and keep them in Atlanta but that never happened.  Hockey teams have had a difficult time building anything in Atlanta.

I attended my first hockey game in October of 1983 while attending military postal school at Ft. Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis, Indiana. The Indianapolis Checkers were a minor league team who played an exhibition game against the United States Olympic hockey team. This was the first team after the “Miracle on Ice” team which had won the Gold Medal in the 1980 Olympics.  It was quite a different experience watching the game in person.

I started following hockey from a distance and watching a few games during the Stanley Cup playoffs. It wasn’t until many years later until I attended another hockey game. I went with a co-worker to watch the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks. We drove from Macon, Georgia to Tallahassee, Florida just to watch the game. Finally in 1996, Macon got a minor league hockey team. First it was the Macon Whoopee and later the Macon Trax.

Hockey fell off my radar when hockey finally left Macon after the 2005 season.

When my wife and I moved to Nashville in 2014, we had heard about the Nashville Predators.  I had seen them on television at times but never gave them much thought.  My wife bought us tickets to a game in 2015 but due to a snow/ice storm on the day of the game, we were unable to attend.  She contacted the front office and they sent us four sets of tickets for any game at the start of the 2015-2016 season.  I had never attended a National Hockey League (NHL) game and my wife had never been to a hockey game.  Those four games hooked us and we have been Predators’ fans since then.  We aren’t able to go to every game but when we can’t go to the game in person we rarely miss watching on television.  It has been an amazing experience for us.  My wife loves to coach the team and it is funny to watch her fuss at them when things aren’t going well.  Nashville Predators’ Coaches should be thankful she around them when she’s doing her coaching.  I had a feeling once we went to a game in person that she would be hooked.  I am proud of how well she has picked up the game.

It was fun being a part of the Predators’ Stanley Cup run two seasons ago.  This city was consumed with the team as fans filled the streets and parks downtown to watch the games.  It was really a fun ride and we hope this season repeats that experience.

I would have to say that hockey is ranked right behind football as my favorite sport.  Football will always be my number one but hockey has moved up past the other sports for a solid place behind football.  I’m not a fan of the fighting and although there is low scoring, there is constant action which you can’t say about baseball or football.

Maybe I didn’t “grow up” with hockey but I am a fan now and excited about the season starting.

 

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Hockey Conversion Of A Southerner

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When I grew up, hockey was something that was said to come out of a bull – as in – bull hockey.  So the word “hockey” was associated with what we call in the social media world as the “poop emoji”.

From an early age I loved American football, especially high school football.  I grew up in Georgia and you either liked football, baseball or both.  There wasn’t much attention paid to any other sport.  I never knew much about the sport of hockey until the late 70s.  We were living in Villa Rica, Georgia and somehow I got to see some Atlanta Flames games on television.

I watched them in their best season in Atlanta in the 1978-79 season, but they were swept by the Toronto Maple Leafs in two games in the first round of the 1979 Stanley Cup playoffs.  I paid more attention to them the next season which turned out to be their final season before they packed up and moved to Calgary.

Then, who could forget the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. Olympic Hockey team won the Gold Medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics?  I listened to the Gold Medal game on radio.

It wasn’t until 1983 that I attended my first hockey game in person.  I was going to a school in Indianapolis, Indiana and learned that the United States Olympic Hockey Team was playing an exhibition game against the Indianapolis Checkers.  The Checkers were a minor league hockey team.

After that, I watched hockey occasionally but didn’t get to attend another game in person until I worked for the Macon Telegraph and met a co-worker who was a big hockey fan.  Specifically, he was a fan of the New York Rangers.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a hockey team in our immediate area at the time.  The closest hockey team was a minor league team in Tallahassee, Florida.  We actually drove down for a game.   In 1992, Atlanta got a minor league team called the Atlanta Knights in the International Hockey League (IHL).  We went up to see a game there.  It was a higher caliber hockey but not quite the National Hockey League (NHL) level.

In 1996, there was a renewed interest in hockey in Macon, Georgia where I lived.  The Macon Whoopee started playing in the Central Hockey League (CHL) for five seasons.  I attended many, many games there.   Early on I remember attending when it was a packed arena and thinking it would be around for a long time.  The team finally left in 2001 but in 2002 the Macon Trax brought hockey back.  They bounced around three leagues over the next three years before leaving.

When my wife and I moved to Nashville in 2014, we started trying the different sports teams.  She bought us tickets to a game for a Valentine’s Day gift but on the night we were supposed to go, a heavy ice storm hit the area and it wasn’t safe for us to drive.  When we talked to the Nashville Predators front office about this situation, they gave us some free tickets for the next season.

In October 2015, we attended our first game.  We had great seats and survived the annoying lady next to us that was trying to tell us how to cheer the Predators.  We did pretty good on our own and from that game we were hooked.   My wife had never seen a hockey game in person but now she is just as much a fan (or maybe more) than I am.  She has definitely been converted.  I still have to explain the rule about offsides to her but she’s definitely “coaching” the team during the game.  It’s been fun watching her conversion.

Hockey is an awesome sport.  Lots of action.   We don’t like the fighting and wish they wouldn’t do it.  In fact, in all the games we have attended in person, there weren’t any fights at the game.  During this past season we have watched almost every game on television.

Football is still number one for me – although the last Super Bowl almost did me in.  Hockey is definitely a close second for me now.