Old Time Hockey
I owe my love of sports to my mother. It's an unusual thing, as most parent-child sports bonding stories are father related, but my father is a Mets fan and my mother was going to see to it that her daughter did not meet that same fate. So I was raised a Yankee fan, learning the fine art of gloating under the tutelage of my mother and my grandfather.
When there wasn't baseball, there was hockey. The New York Islanders became a fixture in our lives in 1972. My father wasn't really into hockey but my mother became obsessed with the sport and I followed suit. By the time the Isles grew into a championship team I was at the age when a mother-daughter relationship usually deteriorates into something along the lines of "You're 18. Why are you still living here?" Hockey--and a winning team--kept our ties strong.
A few days ago I was talking to my son--who is a New York Rangers fan despite my best efforts to steer him right--about the dynasty years of the Islanders.
"That's old time hockey, mom."
"No. Old time hockey is Eddie Shore."
"The 80s were 30 years ago. Face it. It's old time hockey."
I know he's right. I have a tendency to live in the past when it comes to the NHL. The 80s were a great time for hockey. It was a different game then. Men were men and hockey players didn't wear helmets and if your team was playing the Flyers, you could expect at least one bench-clearing brawl. My mother - normally not one to condone violence - raised me to believe a hockey game wasn't complete until someone got a game misconduct. I miss the fights. I miss players climbing into the stands. I miss Dave Schultz. I miss the Patrick Division I even miss Ron Duguay's hair.
I tell this all to my son.
"You don't really miss that stuff," he says. "You're just being nostalgic for when Islanders were a good team. Remember that? Good times, right?" I send him to his room.
He's right, again. I miss those days. When I talk about how I long for the days of the Campbell Conference and the Hartford Whalers and Dave Semenko, I'm really saying I long for the days when my team was a dynasty. I'm that person. I'm the "Well, the Yankees have 27 World Series wins" person of hockey.
Perhaps I'm living in the past because the future of the Islanders is so uncertain. There's a chance the team could be leaving Long Island soon, taking with them any chance of giving their fans a more recent victory to cling to.
I don't even talk about the subject of the Islanders leaving with my mother. She doesn't want to discuss it. That doesn't stop my son from bringing it up, though.
"So grandma, when the Islanders leave are you going to become a Rangers fan?"
"I'd sooner root for the Mets," she says.
None of us can see that. Then again, none of us can see this Island without its hockey team. The thing that kept the tenuous relationship I had with my mother in my early 20s from breaking might be going the way of the Minnesota North Stars and the Quebec Nordiques.
Sometimes we get really nostalgic and we'll go on YouTube looking for clips of Clark Gillies punching out Eddie Hospodar. We remember the good times we shared over hockey games. Sure, we can share some good times with the Islanders now. It's just not the same when your team isn't winning. Or when they are threatening to leave.
We've made a secret pact to become Winnipeg Jets fans if they do.