By Christine Ramirez
My husband and I met and started dating awhile ago. When he felt comfortable enough (I surmise), he asked me to accompany him to his team’s championship game, which was played at the historic Playland Ice Casino, in Westchester County, New York. I was born and raised in New York City and was still living there when we met. I was impressed! I was also really psyched! This is a first! I am going to see my boyfriend play some mean ice hockey!
I loved (emphasis on the past tense) watching pro hockey on TV, but I especially enjoyed watching the New York Rangers. Keep in mind those were the days of Phil Esposito as coach and, years later, with Mark Messier as captain and Brian Leech as alternate captain. Imagine, my new boyfriend plays ice hockey and I am going to his championship game as his babe! What did I know at that time about rec hockey versus semi-pro, semi-pro versus professional hockey?
Well, on the evening of the game, we get there extremely early. Let me tell you, I am talking very early. I am the only spectator for this game walking around the Ice Casino. It’s pretty chilly inside and, frankly, warmer outside. I think to myself, As soon as more people arrive and it gets closer to game time they will turn on the heat. Yeah, right!
Uniformed players soon start to wander out onto the ice. I start to get really excited! I know my man’s team is wearing either white with purple or black with purple (that’s the whole Home team-Away team thing). And the other team’s colors are nowhere near white/purple/black.
Some players are starting to warm up. I see others gently entering the ice surface… and then some more players, gingerly stepping onto the ice.
What? And I think to myself, when the Rangers hit the ice, well, they really hit it! This is the first time I see ice hockey players stepping lightly onto the playing surface like dancers in ballet pointe shoes.
Finally, perhaps three more women arrive right before the official start of the game. At some point—mid-point in the first period—another woman arrives. She has two kids in tow and is pretty stressed. It’s obvious she is not happy. I just sit and then get up and walk… sit and walk…
Soon the first period is over. And I did not see him play. I do not even know how to recognize him out on the ice. I just keep wondering, where are all the fans and ice hockey spectators?
Both teams clear the ice between periods. It is at the beginning of the 3rd period when a handsome couple comes up to me, the only two new people I have seen since the arrival of the harried lady and her children. The man asks me, “Are you here with my brother? Are you his new girlfriend?” His lovely companion just smiles at me. “Yes, yes I am,” I reply. “His team is not doing well. But the other team isn’t either. It kind of looks like slow-motion hockey to me.”
Oh no, I think. Did I just say a negative thing to his family members?
They both just smile warmly at me, acting like I said nothing at all. “So lovely to meet you. We’ve heard so much about you,” they say.
I spend the rest of the 3rd period with my man’s brother and his wife. The game ends and we three spend time together waiting… and waiting… and waiting for my man to come out to greet us. This is the first time I meet any of his family members. And the best part is that they are both so lovely and warm.
He finally saunters out of the locker room, all confidence and swagger. And what does he say? Certainly not what I expected. “We won the championship!” he exclaims.
I promise you I made sure my jaw did not drop open. Another first, since I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.
(For more about my experiences as a hockey wife/spectator, be sure to check out the next installment, “Reluctant Spectator.”)
In real life, The Hockey Wife is Christine Ramirez, a software QA and documentation specialist. And she is actually the wife of Warren Tabachnick, the editor & publisher of CrossIceHockey.com. A long-time hockey fan, Chris sometimes becomes disillusioned with the sport over the course of the season, due to hockey overload. But each year, when the Stanley Cup playoffs descend, her interest is once again piqued.