There are lots of kids that have little choice but to become hockey fans. Your dad coaches, you live in Toronto etc... However, for a kid from Northern California I simply was given no choice in the matter. Basically, I experience the perfect storm of hockey perfection.
I grew up in a small rural community in between Tahoe and Sacramento. No one played hockey except in a few circles around Tahoe and since the 1960 Olympics, the sport had died down significantly in the area in the 1970s. However, at the age of 10 years old I and the rest of the United States were glued to our televisions to witness perhaps the greatest sporting moment in our history, The miracle on ice. Like a lot of kids and adults I was enamored with the passion, skill and emotion of the sport. As a consequence there was more exposure to it. The newspapers started to post actual box scores for LA Kings games. At the same time, our family started to rent a cabin on our property to a retired Navy captain who played in the stock market. To my delight he installed one of those massive satallite dishes so he could follow his investments. As a result I got to go over and watch hockey from time to time. I even got to watch The George Michael Sports Machine before it was syndicated. Started around the same time, GMSM had the Miracle on Ice fever as well and showed copius amounts of hockey highlights.
However, my hockey obsession reached its permenance two short years later at age twelve when I took a trip to Southern California to see my Aunt. To my delight, we got tickets to game 3 of the hockey playoffs featuring Wayne Gretsky's Edmonton Oilers vs the heavy underdog Los Angeles Kings. That game, like the Miracle on Ice became one of the best hockey games of all time. It is known to this day as The Miracle on Manchester. It was an experience like no other in the Forum that night. I heard curse words I never knew existed, beer flew and emotions ran high. In those days the Kings crowds were real blue collar die hards and they cheered for a team that was as tough as they came. The beginning of the third period was just dead silent, it was kind of spooky. However, some good upstanding citizen next to us stood up and yelled something I will never forget. I swear to this day it echoed through the entire forum. He yelled, "REF YOU MUST BE PREGNANT! YOU'VE MISSED TWO PERIODS SO FAR!!!". I had no idea what the hell that meant at the time but everyone in the lower section laughed. Then it was on, the crowd got on the refs big time and down 5-0 there was really nothing to lose. You can follow the link and read the rest of history. Did that joke turn the tide? Hell, I don't think so but it couldn't have hurt.
In two short years, I witnessed hockey euphoria at an impressionable age. As I said, I really had no choice in the matter. I went on to move to Denver which lead to my alligence to the Avalanche. The story between age 12 and my move is really too much to cover but suffice to say I love hockey, it really couldn't have turned out any other way.