When You’re Twelve
“The day would always come when we would have to say goodbye, sometimes she would cry.” (Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, Thirteen)
Oh, hey. It’s been a while. Sorry about that. Things were weird this summer, and I was working two jobs for a while, and now I’m not (yay, new full-time employment!). But I will be starting a new full-time gig on December 2, it is 35 minutes away from where I live, and I spend a lot of time in my car shuttling back and forth. I listen to a lot of podcasts, some hosted by people y’all don’t like, but I like them, and I probably won’t stop. Besides, I’m going to marry Jeff Marek one day, and none of you (well, maybe Canadian law enforcement) can stop me.
The year was 1995. I was in 7th grade. I was 12. I was also helplessly in love (or so I thought) with my best friend since kindergarden, who just happened to be a Sabres fan. So, I became a Sabres fan. I wanted to impress him and earn his love (what the hell), and I was going to be the best Sabres fan I could be. I had been an Amerks fan my whole life, so this was a logical move. Right? Oh, sure. Guess what happened? Said best friend never fell in love with me back (not even the 7th grade kind), and he eventually ended up moving away in high school. We are still friends, however. The boy left, and the hockey stayed. I continued to throw myself into the game, learning as much as I could and gathering sweaters, hockey crushes, tidbits, trivia, blog jobs, and friends along the way.
That’s where Jeff Marek and his pod-partner Greg Wyshynski come into play. In one of last week’s casts, Marek used a quote, and I apologize for not having it perfect or being able to give credit to the original author, that essentially said that sports will never be as good as they are when you’re twelve years old. I got to thinking, and I concluded that I could certainly agree. There could be a solid argument that the 1998-99 season was better than the 1995-6 season, but I would have to disagree. I fell in love with my first player that I wasn’t actually in love with. I loved his style. I loved how he played, how he led the team, and how he looked on the ice. Mike Peca was everything I could’ve wanted in a player. Matt Barnaby was my goon of choice (I’ve since revised that notion, thank you social media). Dominik Hasek was nasty in net, and my boys Marty Biron and Steve Shields were hanging out in the wings, waiting for their time to shine. Scott Nichol got to play two games with the big boys, which tickled me to no end.
I grew up in a time when hockey was patrolled on the ice, and the goons did their jobs. It was a different time, not necessarily a better one, but a different one. Barnaby, Rob Ray, and Brad May combined for 917 penalty minutes. Again, I’m not saying it was a better time, just a different time. But it was what I grew up watching, and I loved it. A small part of me, even though I now know of the dangers and bad things that can come from a long career of blows to the head, misses those days. Most of me doesn’t, though, and can appreciate the finesse game my favorite sports has grown into. You can hate my opinion if you want, but I’m allowed to have one. That’s the beauty of blogs.
I’ve seen a lot of things change in the last nearly 19 years. Coaches, GMs, players. Teams came and went. I’ve seen them be better and much, much worse. I fell in love with a guy named Ted Nolan. I was sad when he left, no matter what the reasoning was (and I’ve heard all of them). I was excited to see him and Pat LaFontaine come back. I know a lot of people, both local and national, think that this is an owner trying to relive the glory days, but I don’t know that I agree. I think that Ron Rolston got the crap end of the stick, and I’m hopeful that Nolan will be able to get things back at least little above water. The only thing that any of us can do is sit back and watch the hunt for a GM and hopefully at least a .500 season. But just remember: it’ll never be as good as it was when we were 12.