Memory Lane

A Warm Memory Of Ice Hockey?

Photo by JohnAlexandr on iStock

As I write this, the New York Islanders are tied (1-1) against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the semi-final round of the Stanley Cup (the Super Bowl of ice hockey, although it has been around almost 75 years longer). Growing up on Long Island, I have been an Islanders fan since birth – the team's birth in 1972, having been introduced to ice hockey by my father, who had always been a huge New York Rangers fan.

Understandably, having another hockey team in the New York metropolitan area meant there would be a serious rivalry between the two fan bases. Including at our house. And, often at the kitchen table, although it did not include my mother. She was not a sports fan of any sort, let alone ice hockey, and was not even remotely interested in learning … although she should have created a "penalty box" somewhere in the house for when I misbehaved (which was often) but probably realized I would enjoy being sent there, which would only encourage my misbehavior.

The fact the Islanders only played the Rangers four times a season did not stop the discussions and debates. And, the number-crunching of statistics. (This was well before the internet, and they were not at your fingertips unless you saved, or memorized, the results in the newspaper). This would happen all through the season, and you can only imagine what it was like in 1975 when they faced each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Even when I moved out of New York, I followed the Islanders, through highs and lows, and remember how frustrating it was to be living in the South during their historic early 80's run (and again being in the playoffs with the Rangers) surrounded by football fanatics. I would have to call home to talk hockey.

But my fondest hockey memories? Growing up, my father and I watched the games on television, so I will never forget my first live game. It was a regular-season Rangers game in Madison Square Garden (I do not remember the opposing team, so obviously it was not the Islanders), and I am not sure I ever saw my father so mesmerized by anything. Maybe it was being at a pro game at "The Garden" as he typically would not spend money on something as self-indulgent as sports tickets. Or, maybe it was because he had played ice hockey growing up, so it had special memories for him.

Which, in turn, created special memories for me, as I can remember being in awe of his skating abilities when he first taught me how to ice skate (on a frozen water reservoir) – he was as quick in reverse as going forward. Graceful and effortless in both directions. A very different side of him than what I would typically see at home or in his home office.

I also remember treating him years later, just before I went off to college, to an Islanders home game at the Nassau Coliseum. It was a relatively new stadium and has been home to the Islanders for almost their entire existence (this year's playoffs will be the end of that as they will be moving to a new stadium). But, it did not have the history of The Garden, and since we drove there, did not have that special feeling of getting off the Long Island Railroad and taking an escalator up to the game. But, none of that would matter, as the game will always have a special place in my heart,

It was the first, and only, time my father and I went to a game at the Coliseum, and although I do not remember who we played, I do remember us both shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" after every Islanders goal, and even louder after their win. And I cannot help but smile thinking about my father … and watching a diehard Rangers fan so excited about an Islander win.

‘Tis the season for joyous celebrations – of whatever holiday you may celebrate. And fond memories. Even though Red wasn’t born when this happened, it’s still one of her holiday favorites (yes, she initially thought Black must have been on the “naughty list”) and a reminder of what the holidays are truly all about.

BLACK: I do not know at what age my Christmas memories began, but I do remember being very young and in awe of a very large – and very well decorated – Christmas tree in our family room. I even remember peeking down the stairs late one evening and seeing my mother standing extremely close to Santa Claus. OK, you might not find that an unusual memory, except my family is Jewish.

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