Sarah Palin and I have several things in common: we both have roots in Alaska; we were both photographed by the Mendenhall Glacier, and we were both hockey moms.
My life as a hockey mom got started when my son, Robert, was about six. He started playing in roller hockey in Brooklyn, skating at a rink at 53rd Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway. Joey Mullen, one of the best American born ice hockey players ever, got his start at that same outdoors rink. It was cold, gloomy and had no place to sit. You had to stand to watch. The only refuge from the cold was a pizza place across the street.
A year later, Robert was playing at Sky Rink in Manhattan. The “old” Sky Rink on was on the 16th Floor of 450 West 33rd Street, not far from the equally famous Cheyenne Diner. Hockey players, cabbies, clubbers, mobsters, hookers, parents, European tourists hit the Cheyenne for coffee and breakfast at 4 and 5 am. I miss the old Sky Rink: it was grungy, unfashionably painted a hideous blue, and stunk of hockey just like a skating rink should.
From his father, Robert developed an affection and fierce loyalty to the New York Islanders. Growing up in New Jersey, I am a strong advocate of all New Jersey teams, so that means I became a Devils fan. His whole growing up we rooted against each other during the regular season, and bet all the way through the Stanley Cup Finals. We both hated the Rangers; although I have to grudgingly admit a respect for some great Ranger players: Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Mark Messier, Mike Gartner, Mike Richter, Wayne Gretzky, and Jaromir Jagr.
My favorite Devils player in those days was Claude Lemieux — crafty, cunning, a yapper — he won 4 Stanley Cups with the Devils and went on to play elsewhere. I lost sight of him after he retired; but this year he’s back playing with the San Jose Sharks. They play the Rangers tonight, so that’s the game I’ll watch instead of baseball.
Now, living on Long Island, I’m only 15 minutes from the home of the NY Islanders — Nassau Coliseum. In contrast, it’s a long schlep to a Devils game in Newark, New Jersey. I hope to get to one or two Devils Saturday games over the course of the season; but for ease of travel if I want to watch hockey I have to go see the Islanders play. Now that I’m getting older, I don’t want to get into any unnecessary scrums with other fans, so I’ll leave my NJ Devils jersey home.
If rookie John Tavares lights the place up, or if veteran forward Doug Weight, the new captain, plays with a lot of heart, I may break down and buy a cap.
Any hockey players or fans out there!??