The Olympic Games use to be a very big deal in this country, especially the Winter Olympics. Growing up in Ohio where there is a lot of snow from November until March, we were always looking for excuses to stay in the house. Mom was a firm believer in fresh air - and I suspect getting us out of the house on snow days - so we were bundled up and sent out whenever possible. Except during the Winter Olympics. Mom would make hot chocolate and my brother, sister, and I would sit with her during the day and watch whatever events were on TV.
We loved Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner. I wanted to be Dorothy Hamil. The skiing was amazing and the jumps - Whoa! They still take my breath away. We laughed about forming our own family curling team, and I even took curling as a phys ed elective in college. And we watched hockey.
Like many people, I first fell in love with hockey in 1980 during the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, NY. Growing up during the "Cold War" is hard to explain to kids now. We had nuclear bomb drills at school where we were told that we would be safe under our desks. We watched movies like "War Games" and "Red Dawn" and even "Rocky IV" where we were told over and over about the evil Soviet Union. And we were afraid. But when the US Men's hockey team defeated the team from the USSR we shed some of that fear. We revelled in our victory as a nation. And hockey fans all over the USA were born.
When it came time for me to pick a college in 1984, I chose Bowling Green State University. Not because they had a great academic program for my chosen major or because they were close to home. I chose them simply because the BGSU Falcons won the NCAA Hockey Championship that year. Cleveland did not have a hockey team between 1978 and 1992 and I wanted to see hockey. I also wanted to see a winning program. Plus, their colors were brown and orange just like my Cleveland Browns.
One of the girls that lived across the hall from me in my freshman dorm was from Buffalo, NY, and was a Sabres fan. So, I became a Sabres fan. My favorite player was their goalie, Tom Barrasso. Coincidentally, when I got married in 1987, my husband was going to grad school at SUNY Buffalo so we lived in Cheektowaga, NY, for 3 years. I got to see actual Sabre games, and also Buffalo Bill football games in Orchard Park. I was still a Cleveland Browns fan, but during those years, I could root for the "home" team and enjoy Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith.
After moving back to Ohio, we started having kids so it was much harder to keep up with hockey news, especially because we didn't have any hockey teams in NE Ohio. I'm not sure why Cleveland has never been a big hockey town. It seems like the perfect place to me, but then again, being a Browns fan takes a lot of strength and heart and hope so maybe there's just not much left for anything else.
So all of this leads me to the fact that we do have hockey in Cleveland: The Lake Erie Monsters. They are the AHL affiliate of the NHL Colorado Avalanche. The AHL is the primary developmental league for the NHL. It has four divisions and we are in the North, along with Grand Rapids Griffins, Hamilton Bulldogs, Rochester Americans, and Toronto Marlies. The Monsters finished 2nd in the division last year with a record of 44-28 and went to the playoffs. They lost a tough seven game series to Manitoba 3-4 but at least they made the playoffs!
I think this years team has a shot at winning the North and I'm hopeful for a great hockey season this year. Opening game is October 7th at Quicken Loans Arena. I'll be writing more about them as the season gets underway so I hope you are ready for hockey news. I know we are a town full of football fans, but seriously, hockey is awesome plus they play on all different days of the week and I know that waiting on next Sunday to get here when it's only Tuesday can be pretty boring. Hockey can help spice things up a bit! Trust me.