Well, after a long break to do some teaching, I resurfaced on the blogging scene and discovered it was my turn for the Raw Charge Question of the Week.
Lately, we've meandered away from tangible, direct questions about the future of the team, roster moves, predictions, etc. and instead asked about favorite blog posts, summer reading, and so on.
With my question falling just into that gray area of being able to start looking towards October and it still being a little early to think about hockey, I decided to continue that trend in a way that can bridge the gap.
The beautiful thing about hockey is that different aspects of the game appeal to different people for different reasons. With all of this in mind, I asked the Raw Charge staff: What's your favorite memory from an NHL game you attended?
Our answers after the break. Let's hear your great stories in the comments!
Me (Matt Amos/Don't Trade Vinny):
My favorite memory was actually from the first game I ever went to. It was in the winter of 1992, and it was a game with the Blackhawks visiting the Blues. I went with my dad who scored company tickets that were like three or four rows from the ice.
Obviously, that was at the height of the Blues-Blackhawks rivalry and things were chippy all game. Something happened and all of a sudden a few fights broke out. It wasn't technically a line brawl, but there was more than one fight going on.
Everyone in the crowd stood up, and being a little guy, I hard a hard time seeing everything. Once the mayhem subsided, the referee skated over to the boards nearest us and bent over. When he stood back up, he had about four of someone's teeth in his hand. He skated them over to the bench and gave them to the trainer.
I was hooked.
My favorite NHL game memory comes from the very first game I ever attended in person. It was the Stanley Cup playoffs, 2002 Eastern Conference semi-final series between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Montreal Canadiens. I attended the first playoff game of the series in Raleigh. It wasn't a particular moment in the game, but just the entire experience was my favorite memory.
Now, I had been watching NHL games on TV for years and had attended a large number of ECHL games in Charlotte, but this game was my introduction to the NHL in person. I had a great seat and the Raleigh Sports and Entertainment Arena (now called the RBC Center) was really rocking. The crowd was so loud it was almost impossible to hear the whistles on the ice and the energy in the building was incredible. The 'Canes won the game (and the series) and advanced to play the Detroit Red Wings in the SCF that year.
June 7th, 2004: Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals
As memories go, I could go with all the cliché stuff about how awesome it was, to see this in person, blah-blah-blah. I’d rather talk about the experience itself. The game? It wasn’t as great as-so-much the outcome. These were two tuckered-out teams who had just crossed the continent (again) to play on poor ice at a humid St. Pete Times Forum.
But the events leading up to the event and my experience at the Forum are what I won’t forget.
My day was spent waiting for my friend, Keith, to arrive from Calgary. Yes, I attended the finale with a Flames fan. In fact, there were a number of Flames fans easily found throughout Times Palace during the game.
It had been a dry spring, or at least a dry May… Yet there were downpours happening throughout the area that day. Lightning and thunder accompanied some. I considered it an omen.
I remember the insane conditions around the Forum during pre-game: A double crowd of people attending the game and those who were going to watch the game in the West Plaza were milling about. Between that, television helicopters hovering over the Forum and television crews handling pre-game broadcasts, it was completely maddening to venture through the West Plaza.
And while conditions did not help the ice, they did not help the concourses either. I remember slipping and sliding throughout the upper concourse as well as on the stairs leading to my seats high above the ice. It still surprises me how bad condensation levels were in the building – to the point everything was drenched.
I remember Keith heckling Kerry Frazer near the end of the game, as a Flames rally attempt was thwarted with a penalty. And I consciously kept thinking "is this really happening?" as the moments ticked away and the game was all but won.
I cheered as the Bolts reached the paramount of hockey, but my celebrations were subdued. I couldn’t help but empathize with Keith, one of my best friends, who had to endure 22,000+ fans celebrating the defeat of his Flames. It was an odd situation, but one I would gladly deal with again.--
Dani Toth/Benched Whale:
My favorite things about going to games, especially during the playoffs, is the intro video that the Canucks use prior to when the players skate out on the ice. Good ones have given me chills before the puck drops.
If we are talking favorite games that I've been to in person, I have mine narrowed down to the Canucks v. Hurricanes on Feb 3 2009 where Burrows' effort was a turning point in the season (stopping a 9 game losing streak), or Game 5 against the Sharks this year in Round 3 for the elation in realizing that your team is going to the finals.
Nolan Whyte/Frozen Sheets Hockey:
I've only been to five games, four of which featured the Lightning. I saw two in Winnipeg, one in Edmonton, and two here in Toronto.
The Jets-Lightning game was back in 1994. I was fourteen and still a new hockey fan, but I was completely obsessed with the Lightning, so seeing a lot of my early heroes was amazing. I came to the game very early and sat through the pregame skates, sitting by the glass and taking blurry pictures of the players as they warmed. I tried shouting to John Tucker, but he called back and said he couldn't hear me. He was probably distracted by getting ready for an NHL game as well.
Since the Jets were horrible at the time (mired in a franchise record winless streak), and the Lightning were a crappy expansion club, the game was poorly attended. As a result, no one came to claim the awesome center ice seats that my dad and I randomly sat down in, saving us from watching the game from the rafters. The game was a 3-2 overtime win for the Bolts, with Mikael Andersson scoring two for the Lightning, including the OT winner. So that was pretty awesome. I don't remember who had the other Lightning goal.
Honorable mention goes to the Lightning-Oilers affair in Edmonton, which the Lightning won 5-0. This game came a day after the Bolts got destroyed 10-0 by the Flames. Two days later they would get destroyed 9-2 by the Canucks. I guess I picked the right game to attend. Petr Klima had a pair for the Bolts, and it was cool to see him at the bench before the game, chatting with fans who knew him from his years as an Oiler.
I was in the military, back in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president and the Cold War was still very much in effect. I was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, and some friends and I had discovered the hockey arena where the local team played their home games. They provided free tickets to military personnel and going to those games became a frequent leisure activity. One night, we found out the team had scheduled an exhibition game against the Soviet Union national team. This was only five years after the Miracle On Ice and the Soviets were still probably the most formidable team in any sport in the world. As soldiers, we were wary of the Soviet Union since they were our adversaries in an undeclared war but as hockey fans, we were very excited for the opportunity to see them in action. They came out in those red uniforms with CCCP across the chest and completely dominated the boys from Frankfurt, just like we thought they would. A good time was had by all and we went back to our barracks. There we were met by our platoon sergeant, first sergeant, company commander and two unsmiling men in suits. Uh-oh.
We were called into the office and questioned about the evening's activities. Apparently the men in suits had been watching us the whole time. I got nervous and tried to remember if I had done anything that could have been considered inappropriate or even unpatriotic. I'm sure I rooted for the home team but it's entirely possible that I applauded the Soviets once or twice because they were Just. That. Good. What would happen to me? Dishonorable discharge? Court martial?? Leavenworth?!? Oh please, we were just watching a hockey game, for Pete's sake. Ask us some questions and let us go to bed.
Any hope of that happening disappeared after the first question posed by the suits: "why were you at that game?" and one of my companions replied "because the Russians are awesome!" Double uh-oh.
We then, as a group and as individuals had to...repeatedly...explain that their puck movement, back checking and scoring prowess was what we considered awesome, not any kind of socio-political philosophies. We didn't get to bed until after three in the morning and I'm pretty sure the men in suits monitored our after-hours activities for a while after that, although we never went to another hockey game in Frankfurt.