Hockey: The gift that keeps on giving.

April 21, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Brad Marchand (63) reacts after scoring a goal during the second period against the Washington Capitals in game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

I turned forty last September. The unofficial birthday gift I got was hockey. Before that, I wasn’t a fan. To be completly honest, the deepest exposure I had growing up came from Slap Shot and the Mighty Ducks franchise.(I still apologize to my hockey guru on occasion for that.) With the beauty of twenty/twenty hindsight, I should have been a hockey fan for a lot longer.

The year I was born was the start of the 1971-1972 season. I’m pretty sure Bruins Nation remembers a certain number four that led the B’s to a Stanley Cup Championship. I was exposed to hockey as a New Englander, but never really thought much of it. The Bruins had their next run at the Cup in the 1989-1990 season, the year I graduated high school.

My sub-rosa hockey immersion continued  into my adult life. I became a manager for Spencer Gifts in Dallas, Texas. One of my employees was a Stars fan, like my guru/brother is for the B’s. My very first NHL game was with Rusty. It was the ’98-’99 season, the year the Stars won the Cup. I had my picture taken with the Cup.  I was soon indoctrinated in the customs and protocol of having your photo taken with the Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Part of my odd resume includes my ordination as a minister. I have always been fascinated by religious ritual. I was learning to see the parallel between religious iconography and the sport of hockey. The Cup was not like other trophies. It literally grew. The Stanley Cup did not just grow in prestige, but in actual size.

I also play a miniatures game called BATTLETECH. That Christmas Rusty had got the Stars starting line, a pair of defensemen, and Eddie Balfour done in minatures about three inches tall. For any of you out there that have ever painted miniatures…ever paint a green eagle on a surface the size of your pinky nail? There was madness in that gift, but I knew he appreciated it. They were on his entertainment center for years afterwards.

Time marches on. I came back to Rhode Island. I started working at Dave and Busters. I got to meet the man who became my hockey guru. I worked my way up the company to the rank of hourly manager AND banquet chef. I recieved my very first instructions in hockey. We started doing meet-n-greets with the AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. The fans would come and get stuff signed by them, and I would cook for the players. One of these nights, I’ve got three parties going out at the same time, and no help is available. So, I set it up so the Bruins food will go out last since the players will run a little long with the fans.  I’m bringing out their food with a whole thirty seconds to spare, and then it happens.

My encounter with a honey badger. I’m driving this cart full of food at the fastest I can possibly take it without sending the food everywhere.  I turn the corner to pull into the area and practically slam into a P-Bruin. From my expierence, there are a lot of big guys in hockey. The player I almost ran down was my size. (I’m 5’8″.) It was the first time I got a look at a Bruins jersey up close.  The other thing that surprised me is that the Bruin I ran down had a huge nose for his size.  I guess I should be thankful.  This kid was half my age and could have made a very big stink about the chef almost running him over. Instead, he smiled and was actually happy the food was out. That Bruins fans is how I met Brad Marchand.

In retrospect, I should have been a fan for years, if not decades. Live and learn I suppose. I don’t get to paint as much as I used to. When I get a chance to though, I go with what I know and love.

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