Gray from Couch Tarts is one of our SJBFFs for sure (hell, she even concocted that adorable logo) and provided this week's Earliest Hockey Memories entry. Make sure to follow the Couch Tarts and try not to make more than a couple obligatory Shark Week jokes. These nice people have suffered enough.
Like a lot of other American kids, I grew up living and breathing baseball. Sure, football existed too, but I didn't care about that. It was all baseball. These were the days of the Bash Brothers in Oakland, and the '89 world series. If you lived in the East Bay and didn't love baseball, you were pretty damn weird.
And yet, somehow, hockey slowly started to trickle into my sub consciousness. I don't remember how or why, maybe it was the Mighty Ducks movies, maybe it was watching Strange Brew too many times, who knows, but my friends and I suddenly developed a strong desire to play hockey. (ok, it was the Mighty Ducks movie) We went to a sporting goods store, got sticks, (the best bright plastic on wood that 15 dollars could buy), a bag of orange plastic pucks and set up a small soccer goal at the end of my friend's drive way and started to play.
We didn't really know how, but we knew hockey players hit each other, so the games usually revolved around how hard we could check the opposing player to the ground before stealing the puck and scoring a goal. Rules were generally ignored in favor of shin hitting mayhem, unless of course someone thought you scored a goal unfairly. Then a huge debate would be started, usually ending with someone shooting a puck at someone else, and generally in a very tender spot. (as a girl, I got the best part of this deal) After all, what was hockey about if it wasn't about beating up the other side?
Later on, in middle school, they added street hockey into the PE curriculum. We'd play on the basketball courts, with only slightly more attention paid to rules and positions than to checking. Classes were co-ed, so we weren't supposed to make contacts, but the boys always did. I'm sure some of it was an excuse to hit girls in the chest and feel their boobs. The Sharks had come to town by this point, but it was still rare to find someone openly discussing hockey in school. Fans existed, but I didn't know many.
Once in high school I had little time for impromptu games on someone's street, and I generally forgot about hockey. I didn't get to my first NHL game until after college. Anyone who thinks a California kid can't fall in love with hockey is dead wrong. It might take us a little longer to get there, but when we eventually get to a live game, we'll be hooked. Even if it means making more Mighty Ducks movies.