Am I a Hockey Fan Now?



(Courtesy Flickr)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer


Jersey clad fans swarm the streets. Black on yellow, yellow on black, the occasional blue and orange of the visiting Islanders; so many Bear logos I don’t know which one I like best. A palpable tension in the air. The confident, yet prepared-for-disappointment feeling that you only find in a born and bred sports city like Boston, where 96 years of fandom runs deep, thick as the blood that flows through their veins. These fans carry the hopes and dreams of the generations before them and the generations to come.

A man on rollerblades with a shaggy, poorly maintained playoff beard and a stuffed Bruin bear hanging around his neck skates up and down Causeway St., leading the crowd in chants of “Let’s Go Bruins!”

Unexpectedly finding ourselves in this moment, we stand outside the entrance to the arena. Wondering aloud, “Is there actually a game tonight?” We thought it was tomorrow. But hell, how often do you find yourself in a true blue collar sports town with the specter of a Game 5 in the Stanley Cup playoffs, literally across the street? 

I’m never one to turn down a game. No skin in the outcome? Doesn’t matter, I just love the competition. I look at my wife, Tora, and she is struggling to come up with a reason why we shouldn’t spend the money. “It’s our whole budget on the first day,” she says. In the next breath, “If we don’t go now, when would we?” I know my play. Keep quiet, let her figure this one out on her own. Let the environment make the sale.

With a sigh, she says, “Go ahead and look up tickets.” She puts up a slight protest when the final price popped up on the screen, but she has given her answer. I press confirm, and the tickets pop into my account. BAL314, Row 10, Seats 9-10.

Am I a hockey fan now?

Entering TD Garden, we have no idea what to expect. All I know is, hockey arenas get cold. We’re going to need some new swag — some gear to remember the night. We browse the team store but nothing grabs our attention. No need to rush things; let’s just go to our seats.

It’s 57 minutes to puck drop when we sit down. The lights on the ice are down, the arena is dimly lit. I am in heaven: people watching, observational heaven. The weight of fandom all around us. Chants begin but die down quickly in the half full bowl.

I point to the rafters, not far above us. The 17 championship banners of the Boston Celtics; the six title banners of the Bruins. Countless numbers retired from both franchises. Legends have played in this city, and legends never die. You can feel the history.

Am I a hockey fan now?

About 30 minutes to game time now. In a state of shock, knowing but not fully comprehending what we are about to experience, the lights come up and the visiting Islanders take the ice. Peppered with boos and some choice phrases these pages won’t allow me to share, the tension grows. I look to my left and see Tora allow a brief glimmer of a smile. That childhood wonder that only comes from seeing electricity in action. 

The Boston Bruins spill out of the tunnel, onto the ice. Music drowns out the fans, yellow towels swing wildly as the home crowd gets worked up. I’ll admit, I cried. This was a moment. The moments in life we all look for but so rarely find. The kind of moment we are often too swept up in to recognize and hang onto. A man to my right exclaims, “Now this is what I’ve missed,” as he gestures to the ice — he feels it too.

Am I a hockey fan now?

Tora grabs my knee. “Let’s go get jerseys, NOW!” She’s as swept up in this as I am, taken by the energy and joy in the arena. Two team stores later and we make it back to our seats. Tora clad in a black hoodie with a “Spoked-B” Bruin logo because, “It reminds me of our first Salt Lake Bees game.” I sported my new white and brown Bruins throwback hoodie. Now we belong and now we can watch some hockey. 

The puck drops. The speed of the game is overwhelming. Powerful yet beautiful. The Bruins score first and the roof nearly blows off the whole damn arena from the excitement. 

I try to teach her the best I can from my limited knowledge of the game; but let’s be honest, I am out of my element and not prepared to be ridiculed for saying something wrong. I make a mental note to study hockey so we can learn it together. 

We boo the referees, cheer big hits and lament five Islander goals. Our beloved Bruins (we’re life-long fans, mind you) drop game 5 and fall behind 3-2 in the best of seven second round series. But the night was a success.

She’s a hockey fan now. I guess I am too.


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