In our continuing look at how we became fans (Part 1, Part 2) this week I go over my eventual conversion to hockey and Islander fan greatness. It's been fun reading the other two stories so far. My own dad was the furthest thing from a sports fan growing up. One of my favorite memories was when my Little League coach showed up too hungover to coach practice. Me and my dad happened to be at the park early and he gave us all the gear and let us run practice. In a brilliant move my dad quickly handed off responsibility to the next parent that showed up.
My dad knew nothing of sports and didn't want to know anything more then what he knew. No matter how many times we drove to Shea Stadium, he always got lost and cursed out the street signs. He also despised traffic, and the one time he took me to a football game (NY/NJ Knights) the traffic was so bad he refused to ever take me to another game at Giants Stadium. So you can guess how often I convinced him to make the drive from Staten Island to Long Island via the BQE and LIE.
All through my life my mom always showed up to any sporting events I was a part of, from little league baseball to high school football she was there. My dad showed up sometimes too, just he had an odd schedule. Either that or he had a schedule so that he never had to deal with my brother and me on the weekend. Family was still important though in me becoming a fan of sports and eventually of hockey.
I was a baseball fan growing up, mostly because all my uncles and cousins were huge baseball fans. In what would foreshadow my future fanhoods, of course they were all Mets fans. My dad would always want to leave baseball games ahead of time, so he could beat the traffic. I was 5 when the Mets made the World Series in 1986. With the Mets down going into the bottom of the 9th of the 6th game my Mom decided I had seen enough of the game. So when the Mets made their miracle comeback, I was in the tub getting ready for bed.
Since I always had cable growing up, I eventually started watching a lot of SportsCenter and getting interested in other sports. When it came to hockey I picked the Islanders as my team, thinking that they were the team for Staten Island. To this day I still don't know how or why I mistook the obvious Long Island in the logo for somehow being related to Staten Island.
Just as my luck works out, my first season really watching the Islanders was in 92-93. Watching Pierre Turgeon and Darius Kasparitius was such a joy. I remember almost crying when Dale Hunter hit Pierre. It was probably one of the most upsetting things I had seen up to that time in a professional sports game. Even though it looked like the Penguins were going to steamroll the Islanders, I'm always the diehard type and decided to watch the series.
When it got to game 7, thankfully my mom was awesome and let me stay up to watch the whole thing. I was wearing my counterfeit Bugs Bunny in an Islanders jersey t-shirt, which became my good luck charm for the series. Watching Glenn Healy play the game of his life is what made me want to become a goalie. As the Penguins made their comeback I was horrified. I thought it was the end of the world when the tying goal went in. Ferraro to Volek made me an Islander fan for life.
It was sort of funny that I became a fan of the Islanders about a year before the rest of the kids in my neighborhood became hockey fans. They suddenly became interested in hockey and the Rangers in particular as the Rags dominated the season. I tended to get beat up anyway, so this was just another reason to shove my face in it. My neighborhood friends took great glee in damaging my Islanders gear too when I did play, despite the fact I was the only goalie in the area.
I was such an insane fan at first I even made a bet with my mom's boss (a Rags fan) in 94. I bet 50 bucks that the 8th seed Islanders would beat the 1st seed Rangers. I had hope all the way into the 4th game that they would turn it around. At least on the bright side he did buy me my first real Islanders jersey, a CCM sweater that I still have today. Not too long into the next season my parents picked me up one of those Islander jersey t-shirts with 77 on it. Two weeks later he was traded and I've never had another name on my Islanders stuff.
For a short time I eased off of following the Islanders. I just couldn't take Milbury anymore. I was starting to get back into hockey when I found LHH, and it's back to a full blown addiction now. It also helped that my roommate got into hockey too during the Flyers 07-08 run to the conference finals. She asked me to help explain the ins and outs of the game along with some of the rules and turns. Watching her excitement for the game helped me get back into it too, and remember some of the joy that the Milbury years stole from me.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and feel free to share your own stories below!