There it is. 1991. Accepting an award for a video competition, dressed in my best Flames jersey and hat. Mike Vernon to be exact.
How does a kid, 2.105 miles away from Calgary Alberta end up a Calgary Flames fan? Well, it started on Saturday's when my mom was at work and my dad and I would sit at home and watch hockey together. This was the early 80's, I was probably 7 (1983) and we would watch the Bruins. I didn't know much, but I knew I liked Pete Peeters. And my obsession with goal tending was born.
I could never skate. My dad could, very good skater. Me, not so much. I didn't have the patience to learn. When I couldn't get the hang of it on double runners, we hung it up and I moved on to floor hockey and then to street hockey. When I got a paper route, I saved up all the money I could and bought Mylec pads, an old school mask, a used blocker and used my baseball glove as a trapper. It could be 100 degrees in the summer, didn't matter. I was between the pipes in all that gear for hours on end, getting pelted with shots.
Let's rewind a bit. I was lucky as I got older. Television was expanding and we had this fancy new thing called cable television. We always had the Bruins on WSBK, but now we had NESN (New England Sports Network) and there was home AND away coverage. There was also this other cool channel called Sports Channel and ESPN. SC had the Boston Celtics, but more importantly, they had ALL the Hartford Whalers games and the NHL Playoffs. This is where I fell for the Flames. I watched ANY game that was on. Bruins/Canadiens, sure. Whalers/Nordiques, yup. Hockey Night In Canada? You betcha. Being slightly obsessed with goal tending, Mike Vernon soon became my favorite hockey player (albeit from VERY afar). And as you can imagine, this 13 year old kid from Massachusetts, who for the record never really rooted for the Bruins, jumped on to that Calgary bandwagon that was the 1989 Cup run. I taped the late night games that I couldn't watch and watched them later. I was in a full on hockey coma brought on by the Calgary Flames. I took my goalie mask and a friend and I painted it up red and yellow with the Flamming C on the sides. I remember being so stoked when they won the Cup. Which seems weird seeing I wasn't from Calgary and I was attempting to be part of the excitement from a world away, but I didn't care. I didn't care that everyone I knew was a Bruins fan. Didn't matter. Come hell or high water, I was a Flames fan. And it stuck. I got a Mike Vernon Flames jersey for Christmas in 1990 and I'm pretty sure I lived in that thing. I'd wear it to school during hockey season and I was the ONLY kid in Taunton, Massachusetts who didn't own a Neely/Bourque/Moog jersey and damn was I proud.
Now, following a team that is in another country and 2 times zones away in the early 90's wasn't easy. ESPN. Sports Channel. Newspapers. A Hockey Digest subscription. A Score Magazine subscription. Hockey cards. You name it, I did everything I could to stay on top of Vernon, Fleury, Macinnis, Nieuwendyk. And then the business of sports hit a young kid like a ton of bricks. Trevor Kidd is drafted and Vernon is traded. I, to this day, blame Kidd. I HATED Trevor Kidd. He replaced my hockey hero. Macinnis left. Nieuwendyk is famously traded. Everything got weird. And I can only imagine how weird it was for the fans in Alberta if I was sitting there going "what the....." But Fleury took over the star mantle. German Titov excelled in his brief time. Fred Brathwaite came along. That guy named Iginla turned out to be pretty ok. Kipper arrived. The 04 Cup run. Times change. Things change. Teams grow. You grow.
The Flames are and will always be my favorite hockey team. I stay on top on them with NHL Centre Ice. I listen to the games on Sportsnet 960 when I'm in the car. I go to the Boston Garden every year and see the Flames when they come to town. There's the Flames Family on Twitter, where we all talk during the games. Then the chance came along to write for this site last October, which I gladly jumped at. Then during the off season the chance to become the Site Manager came along, which again, I gladly jumped at. A chance to write about my favorite hockey team? Um, yeah.
It's funny how you look back on the choices you make when selecting the teams you root for. Sitting around with my dad on a weekend, in front of a small color tv with rabbit ears, watching Pete Peeters play goalie for the Bruins inadvertently set in motion my love of goal tending. That love of goal tending lead me to find Mike Vernon, which in turn lead to my 27 year love affair with the Calgary Flames. Being a Flames fan has led to some fantastic friendships and I've truly met some wonderful and caring people because of this team.
So that's my story. That's how a 13 year old kid from Massachusetts ended up being a fan of the Calgary Flames. Now my mission is to share my love of hockey and the Flames with the two most important people in my life, my daughter Molly and my son Liam.
GO FLAMES GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!