We Got Stanley
June 14, 2002
No Journal SMACKdown topic today, but there is a bonus bit: you can check out my newly posted bio page. When writing it yesterday, I realized that I inadvertently lied about my age in my first entry. I actually made myself older, too, which certainly isn’t the culturally approved direction for a woman my age. (I’ve since edited the entry to correct the error). Guess I’m either not concerned about my age or suffering the first symptoms of it.
The big news around these parts this morning is good news: the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup last night. It’s always dandy when Detroit makes headlines for something positive, and it’s even nicer that the worst bad news associated with the story is that the City Council has their collective shorts in a wad about the giant jersey donned by the Spirit of Detroit statue without their formal approval.
It’ probably time to admit that I’m at best a very casual Wings fan; I don’t follow them during the regular season, and I didn’t see any playoff games in their entirety. The part of my brain and life allotted for paying close attention to professional sports is almost entirely devoted to the NFL, because that’s something I can share with Mr. Karen. Still, the Wings are inescapable around here, and there’s always a good feeling in the air when they do well. I haven’t seen any pickup trucks with homemade Stanley Cup replicas driving around yet today, but it’s early still.
There was a time when I knew and followed hockey, but that was college hockey, Spartan hockey, to be precise. My dorm at Michigan State was just across the street from Munn Arena, where the Spartans play. Freshman year seemed like a good time to try new things (new, innocuous things, that is; I was an honors student and good girl, after all), so, despite never having seen a hockey game before, off I went with a friend from my floor to buy season tickets. The team hadn’t done well the previous year, so there wasn’t a crowd of people waiting in line for the opportunity to see all the games. The man at the ticket window told us we were lucky—even though we were freshman (with the associated high student numbers) and therefore had to wait to buy our tickets after people with lower student numbers got a chance, he had some seats on the red line we could have. We, of course, had no idea if that was good, so we asked him. To his credit, he did not save them for someone who knew more about the game, but sold them to us and my love affair with Spartan hockey began.
The team didn’t do well that year, either, ending up with a 12-22-2 record, but my friend and I had fun watching and even managed to learn a lot of the rules as the season progressed. We asked the people around us a lot of idiot questions at first, getting polite explanations of terms like icing and interference and learning the difference between charging and cross-checking. The next year, Mr. Karen transferred to Michigan State and he got season tickets, too. I don’t think he’d ever seen a hockey game before, either. It was that season, 1981-82, when the Michigan State hockey program took off. They switched to the CCHA, and set a single season record for victories . What a change. More people showed up for games and made more noise and more nights we left with the glow of victory than the disappointment of defeat. It was sweeter still because we’d been around for the losing the year before and could savor the difference.
The team stayed on a roll the next two years, winning more games each year than the one before and setting all sorts of records. Then I graduated and season tickets were a thing of the past. I took a job as a junior auditor at a big accounting firm, and busy season was not compatible with leaving work early to see all the games. I had stayed in the Lansing area, though, and could still follow the team closely, and Mr. Karen (who wasn’t yet Mr. Karen at that point) and I would go to games when we could, at Munn or at Joe Louis Arena (a.k.a. The Joe, home of the Red Wings), which was eventually dubbed “Munn East” by Spartan fans because the team did so well there for so many years.
The high point of all this hockey love came in 1986, when the Spartans won the NCAA hockey championship; I still have the souvenir tee I rushed out and bought. It would have been so great if they could have won it again in 1987, when the Frozen Four was at the Joe, but they lost to North Dakota in the finals and were runner-up. We had seats at for the next NCAA tournament that was held in Detroit, too, but Michigan State didn’t make it that far that year. In a blatant bid for support, one of the mascots of a team that was there skated around with an MSU flag, which was pretty much the highlight of the tournament for us Spartan fans.
After we got married, Mr. Karen and I bought tickets for the college hockey package at Joe Louis, which meant we saw the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament and the CCHA playoffs and usually a couple regular season games between MSU and the University of Michigan. After a few years of moving up in the season ticket pecking order, we were right down on the glass, which was great, but also made it really clear how much younger the players were getting. We might still be going to games now, feeling older and older, if the package prices weren’t jacked up one year to the point where the expense far outstripped our love for the game. Now, we don’t know the players’ names and numbers anymore and just check the scores from time to time. Interests change, and that’s okay.