Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hockey Weekend in America: Favorite Moments

As part of "Hockey Weekend in America" or whatever, we are each participating in the themes each day and writing about it at A Cup A Bruin. Friday was something about favorite memories, jerseys, favorite memories in jerseys...IDK but I put a lot of time and effort into this post, so read it if you want. (While you're there, laugh at how bad I am at doing live-blogging) Or read it as copy and pasted below:

As part of Hockey Weekend in America, and today's theme of wearing your jerseys, here are some of my favorite Bruins memories. These include my jerseys, of course.

My first game was April 1997 at the Fleet Center, where the Bruins played the Penguins in the final game of the regular season. I was in awe of Mario Lemieux, who was retiring after the playoffs (although we all know that wasn't permanent). I was 10, and had received the tickets along with my mom as a Christmas gift from my dad. The three of us went together, where we had loge seats. The Bruins won the game, although I don't particularly remember many details. I just remember the feeling. Even back then when the Bruins were awful, and the Fleet Center was more empty than full most nights, it is a cherished memory. The tickets were in an envelope attached to a stuffed animal penguin, but I thought the gift was just the stuffed animal, so I feigned great excitement. My dad then pointed out that I missed something, and we looked in the envelope. I couldn't believe it! I didn't believe it. I had been a Bruins fan basically since age 1, when my hockey-crazed family moved from Maryland to New Hampshire. I remember falling asleep in front of the TV every game night, trying to make it through the whole game, but never staying up past the first period. Although my brother would go on to play competitive hockey, nobody in my family really embraced the NHL quite like I did. For reasons I call "Lemieux & Jagr", I had adopted the Penguins as one of my "back up teams" - basically a team I liked a lot and would turn my whole attention to once the Bruins missed the playoffs or got eliminated early. At the time, my other "back up" teams were the Red Wings (Sergei Fedorov!), Colorado Avalanche (Reasons I call "Sakic & Forsberg & ROY"), New Jersey Devils (Jason Arnott! Sykora! Stevens!) and then in 1999, the Dallas Stars (because they were playing Buffalo in the finals, and I hated Buffalo because they had eliminated the Bruins that year as well). This is when I fell in love with Jamie Langenbrunner as well. I still love all these players (except Jagr - who I still like I guess, but can you really LIKE a Flyer?)

2001 vs Sharks - look how new that claw is!
I spent years as a devoted NHL fan - first and foremost a Bruins fan, but still made good use of the NHL Center Ice Package. To finally experience a game in person was a whole new level. My parents were very generous, buying me foam bear claws (that I still have), jerseys, hats, $15.00 nachos, and other great stuff. I would go to a handful of games for the next few years - I could only go with my parents, obviously, as a young child. In one instance, my dad bought 2 loge seats and 1 seat on the glass and my sister and I alternated each period (it ended up being a shutout by Carolina). Although they sometimes won, the Bruins had pretty much conditioned me to expect disappointment. My first playoff game was Bruins/Habs, and I distinctly remember the heartbreak at the sharp turn the series had taken. The Bruins lost a pivotal game and would go on to lose the series.

Back then, I only had a very old, plain Bruins jersey and a Samsonov jersey with the pooh bear 3rd jersey. My dad, sister, and I started going to games more frequently as we embraced the joy of seeing games in person. One game against the Flyers, my sister and I decided to make a huge sign to hang over the balcony because we had seats in the first row of the balcony. We spent all day painting "Dinner Tonight: Flyers" with a bear eating a Flyers logo onto a white sheet. A few minutes after arriving at our seats and draping it over the ledge, security made us take it down because it was blocking the view of people in the promenade. How disappointing! But the excitement for any game, preparing all day and making silly signs as just kids (appropriate signs at that - none of that crap about "I Love You So&So". Although I did love Samsonov, and Rolston...and Knuble...and Axelsson...and Muzz.

Age? Probably 18 (given I didn't get monroe pierced until I was 18); Samsonov jersey, pink hat, bear claw...typical attire for me
During the Winter Olympics when Rolston was named to the US Hockey Team (2002), and I desperately wanted a Rolston USA jersey for my birthday. I got it! Sometime after that, my dad took me to a matinee game. I had spoken to some frequent visitors of the Bruins after games, and was told where to go to get my jersey autographed. This place is still the same and is quite obvious (parking lot), but at the time, I was so excited to see the guys in real life! Only a few players stopped on their way out in their cars, but they signed my USA jersey. Samsonov stopped and I was so excited! I was too shy to ask him to sign my Samsonov jersey, but he scribbled a half-assed signature on it anyway. My most vivid memory from this day, however, is when Brian Rolston was leaving in his car. He didn't stop at the gates like the other players did, so it seemed like he was blowing us off. I was sad because he had definitely become my favorite player, and I wanted him to sign my USA jersey! He exited the parking lot, turned onto Causeway Street, and immediately pulled over. He parked and got out of his car so that he could spend more time signing and taking pictures without holding up other players leaving. I, still, was too shy to actually ask for a picture or outright for an autograph, but he signed my jersey. I was hoping he'd notice it was quite a special one - custom made USA Rolston jersey! I don't think he did, but I may have been blacked out from shyness.

That year, my family took the yearly trip to the Bahamas and of course I had to go. I was pretty mad because this was the first time I had really gotten amped up for the Olympics, and I wanted to see Team USA play! I brought my Rolston jersey, sat in the hotel room during the USA/Canada game, and ran down the hall cheering when they scored but was sad when they ultimately lost. This amazing jersey somehow disappeared from my possession within the past 6 or 7 years. I hope to find it around here someday...

I used to get drunk in my room with friends and put on fashion shows. In this case, I decided I had to put on every jersey and pose with props.

As for my Samsonov jersey, I traded it for playoff tickets. This was totally worth it because it was the first and only time I witnessed a Bruins playoff win! They beat Buffalo 2-1, where Recchi set up Bergeron for the game winning goal, and Vladimir Sobotka finally dropped his gloves and fought with "Shippin up to Boston" playing the whole time because it was a TV timeout (check out my pics). This was also when I fell in love with Tim Thomas permanently, because I had never really experienced a Bruins goal that was great in the regular season AND in the playoffs! It had always been great regular season and then choking in the playoffs. He became my favorite, along with Bergeron, who I had been a huge fan of since his rookie season. That year (2003-04 - year before the lockout), my oldest brother and I went to a game together. We somehow got fantastic seats right next to the tunnel only a few rows back. I will never forget the moment when Jeff Jilson looked up from warm ups, right at my brother, and said "Hey Vailsy, what's up?". They had played together in some sort of national team a year or so before. Mind you, I was still only about 15, and I was freaking out. I wanted him to get us access to the locker room or something, but my brother didn't want to bother him.

That season, the Bruins had their first auditions for Ice Girls. My sister got the job (which was much different in it's early days, A LOT DIFFERENT!). My brother and I had gone to the game to see her. Here is a picture of her doing her job greeting people at the entrance, and my brother being gross as usual:

I took lots of pictures of the players, too (baby Bergy! Evil Hal Gill! Captain Joe Thornton! Check them out here!) Anyway, after the Buffalo series, the Bruins went on to play Carolina - and lost. I had great seats too! But once again, Carolina crushed all my hopes and dreams, as well as sucker punched Aaron Ward. To these games, without my Samsonov or USA jersey, and not wanting to wear the old plain Bruins jersey, I wore a recent gift from my sister- a white practice jersey.

Posing prior to the 2nd round playoff game against Carolina in my white practice jersey 

The next year, I got 2 Bruins jerseys for Christmas: a Tim Thomas third jersey and a Marc Savard jersey! I also received tickets, which I normally get every Christmas now as part of tradition (along with going to the final regular season home game). It didn't take long for me to get these jerseys signed - although I only desired the signatures of the jerseys namesake. I got Tim Thomas' signature on the back after an awesome game one night (I believe he had a shutout). I honestly wish I kept better track of each game I've been to, kept the ticket stubs, programs, tracked wins or losses, etc. I didn't start doing that until this year, and as a result, 15 years of Bruins games have been lost to the black hole that is my memory. I've experienced so many great games, and a lot of really crappy games, but I've been very lucky in the frequency with which I have been able to attend games and the success I've been able to witness.

Another jersey-camera-fest. (Jersey isn't signed yet). 

As for my Savard jersey, I decided to wear it to a game last season against the Leafs, despite the fact that Savvy was still out with post-concussion syndrome. I had no idea that Savvy was making his return that night! The Bruins dominated the game, and it was one of those blowout victories that was exciting and fun - even from the nosebleeds. At some point, I got that Savvy jersey signed by him, on the Spoked B logo on the front. I tend to wear it more often than any other ones because it's comfortable and, in my mind, lucky.

Savvy jersey in the middle. Some great memories include watching games with friends, and just sitting around loving hockey together!
Sometimes you randomly run into Brick after games, and get overly excited. 

My most recent jersey is Rich Peverley. I got it for Christmas, and was very surprised and ecstatic when I opened it on Christmas morning. I had not thought that my parents took my request seriously, nor that they would get me another jersey. But they did! The only problem was...

Spelled wrong!
Thankfully that fiasco got sorted out, and the seller got me the correctly spelled jersey. I have had good luck with it so far; my first game with it was Jan 10 against the Jets, a former team of Peverley's, so I hoped it was good luck. It was! They won, and one of the craziest shit I've ever witnessed happened: Shawn Thornton scored a shorthanded penalty shot! I will never forget that. I love celebrating! Later that night, I went to a bar near the Garden with friends and got to try on a real Stanley Cup ring! The Bruins youth hockey coordinator was there, and he has a ring, and he was so nice. And the shiny.

Stanley Cup ring...feels great. 

The next game was Feb 11 against Nashville - another former Peverley team. That game was a gift from my friend, and it was unforgettable! What a great game! Rinne played awesome, but the Bruins kept coming back and tied it with less than a minute left! The seats were perfect to see that goal, and I could have cried from joy. The only other time I may have been that happy at a game was when they beat Buffalo in the playoffs. But somehow, I get more and more psyched for each game!

Tragically, the game I went to on Feb 14th was a shutout loss to the Rangers, and I was very sad. I had brought a friend who was excited to go even though she never really pays attention to hockey until I come along. She was so excited for this game, and still had a good time despite not even getting to celebrate a goal. She wore my Bergeron jersey and I wore my Peverley jersey, which was no longer undefeated.

Cassie and I
It is so hard to pinpoint favorite moments because there have been so many of them. I have gone to dozens of games a year for a few years, and have had countless great times with friends, family, boyfriends, and even strangers. I will NEVER forget seeing the Championship Banner raised on opening night despite the loss to the Flyers. I will never forget the team skating out the zamboni entrance, carrying the Cup and skating it on Garden ice. It was the first time I had seen the Cup in person, and for 20+ years I'd been wishing at every occasion for the Bruins to win a Cup before I died. I had tears of happiness. Even after the disappointing loss, I was overjoyed. I've sat in nearly every section - balcony and loge, and even premium seats once. I have sat on the glass, in the last row of the balcony, spent hundreds of dollars on tickets or as little as ten dollars per tickets. I've wasted a lot of money on tickets, but it's not a waste. I keep coming back and crave it like a drug and love it like we're in a relationship, because it is the most fun I ever experience, it is the most enjoyable excitement, and it is the only time I ever enjoy being part of a crowd. To channel that love in the Garden atmosphere, jumping up and screaming while the goal song plays, proudly display my Bruins gear and buy rivals sex as something so fantastic, it's almost impossible to describe, and it's certainly never the same when it's being watched on a screen rather than seeing the real thing in person. I have no regrets. I only have excitement for future opportunities.

Meet & greets or signings for which you buy tickets or wait in line, or events like Cuts for a Cause or Wives Carnival, are so fun and exciting to meet the players, but my favorite place to see those players is on the ice, scoring goals, hugging one another like they are little kids. We experience the joy, pain, sadness, and elation along with the team, and I am so lucky to be apart of it.

And there's nothing quite as great as sticking by your favorite players during bad seasons, then seeing them return and win the Vezina again
More galleries of early games: 2001 v San Jose - CAPTAIN ALLISON! HAL GILL PHOTOBOMBING WITH AN O FACE. ew. I had great seats at this game, and according to the photo that shows JOHN GRAHAME as #1 star, apparently it was a good game. Here's a blast from the past: Andrew Raycroft winning the 7th Player Award in 2004. Also check out a game against Detroit that year - how sick was Samsonov - Thornton - Murray? I once again had fantastic seats because my sister was working the game. I don't even remember going to this game but apparently I did - May 2010 game 5 vs Philly pics.

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