My story of how I became a fan of the Colorado Avalanche. This is Part 1. Part 2 can be read here.
I was born in the early 70's near Barstow, California - not exactly a hot bed of hockey fanatacism. We got one channel - two if the weather was good - on our old black and white TV. Suffice to say, I had no exposure to the sport. I did get into football at a young age; what 5-year old wouldn't jump at the chance to start rooting for a team called the "Cowboys"? When my family moved to LA (I was 7, I believe), I added the Dodgers to my list of favorites. I was aware of the Kings (and Lakers, for that matter), but focused most of my time on following football and baseball.
In the early 80s, my family moved again. This time, we were headed to a more hockey-friendly locale - Canada. Settling in Carp, Ontario - a small town outside of Ottawa, very close to where the Senators arena now sits - I quickly became friends with a kid in my new school named David Bradley. David was the typical Canadian kid: he loved hockey. He was a huge fan of the Islanders and, especially, Mike Bossy. He played hockey (quite well, I remember). He collected hockey cards. Naturally, I became interested in hockey too. David tried to teach me to skate, but I got frustrated at not being able to get the hang of it immediately, and gave up pretty quickly.
Besides my inability to learn to skate, I had another hindrance; I didn't know what team to follow. David's team was the Islanders, and I wanted a team of my own to follow. The Kings were an option, but it didn't feel right to start following them after I'd moved away from Los Angeles. The Oilers were good, but they were already well on their path towards dynasty status within a few years - I felt I was a little too late to jump on that bandwagon. The Leafs were simply too enormously popular to even consider, as were the Habs. In 1982, I did catch a bit of Nordique fever, when the former WHA team won their first playoff series in an upset against the Canadiens. Not quite enough to reel me in for good, but it did leave an impression.
In the mid-80s, we'd moved again. This time, we were in New Hampshire (a state I still call home today). Bruin's country. I tried to get into the B's...but it just didn't feel right. Without a team, and with better access again to football and baseball, my burgeoning hockey interest was fading.
And then a funny thing happened. It was the early 90s, and I was caught up in the big fantasy baseball craze. My friends and I were quite involved, checking pitching matchups and watching SportsCenter every night together over a few too many Natty Lights to trash-talk each other's teams. We had so much fun doing this, we decided we needed to find a fantasy league to occupy us during the baseball offseason. It was essentially a toss-up between basketball and hockey. Neither sport had much in the way of standard fantasy rules at that point - we were basically going to have to make up the rules for a league no matter which one we chose. In the end, we settled on the simpler stats of hockey. We came up with some rules, and had our initial draft. I would do the stats by hand on my Apple IIc. And that was it. Within a year, hockey would be the sport most of us cared about the most. I dropped out of fantasy baseball completely.
One of the key guys on my team was some kid from the Nordiques: Joe Sakic. I didn't know much about him, other than the fact that he put up good numbers on an awful, awful team. Sakic helped me win a number of fantasy championships. And, since I generally tend to gravitate towards underdog teams, the Nordiques quietly became my favorite hockey team. I bought a jersey, chose them for all my console hockey careers, and swore heavily when Mats Sundin was traded away. Finally, after 10+ years of searching, I'd found my team.
Just in time for them to leave me.
(to be continued on Tuesday)