I got a bunch of new hockey fan followers on twitter yesterday (hi, hockey fans!), so I thought I’d try to entertain them with a story.
Back in the early 80′s, I took two kinds of road trips. One was the random, spur of the moment kind that ended up with me being 200 miles from home, not quite sure of my first name, peeing in a stranger’s backyard and wondering if we finally lost the State Troopers.
The other kind of trip was the hockey trip.
This was the glory days of the New York Islanders, the dynasty years where they won four cups in a row. Hell, it was the glory days for the NHL as far as I’m concerned. No helmets. Only 16 teams in the playoffs. Bench clearing brawls. Old time hockey! Eddie Shore! Damn, I miss the Patrick Division.
We had season tickets for the Isles, but that wasn’t enough. We wanted to see them on the road, too. We went to Philly, Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Boston, Hartford. Sometimes we hopped in the car and went; me, my two sisters and my mom. We were all hockey junkies. Those were fun road trips, even if they ended up with us getting into fights, especially in Philly. Man, my mom could curse someone out.
Sometimes we went by bus. I belonged to the Islanders Booster Club, simply because of these trips. I didn’t go to the meetings because they were kind of the hockey equivalent of the AV club at school. But they had cool road trips, so we joined the club and traveled along.
One of these trips was to Boston, just me and my youngest sister. This had to be the 81-82 season. Or the 80-81. Either way, the Islanders were the current Stanley Cup champions. Boston was not.
The trip there was pretty uneventful. A crowded bus filled half with sweaty nerds and half with hockey groupies straight out of Slap Shot. At some point the president of the booster club gave us a speech about behaving properly because we were representing the Islanders. I closed my eyes and slept on and off until we rolled into Boston.
We pulled up right in front of Boston Garden. We got off the bus – behaving impeccably – and made our way to our seats. We were all wearing Islanders jerseys (#9, Clark Gillies) or jackets or hats, and we got looks. This was Boston. They don’t like us very much to begin with. And there we were marching into their arena flaunting our team’s Stanley Cup. The bad blood between New York and Boston goes beyond hockey; it’s a baseball thing, too. So we could just feel the hatred as we settled into our seats.
We tried to behave because we knew how it felt to have groups of opposing fans come into the Coliseum and start talking crap to us about our team. We vowed to be on our best behavior and just enjoy the game. But it was hard. I heard the taunts, I knew they were baiting us. Soon, some of the fans started cursing at us in that obnoxious Boston accent. Not for nothing, Bostonians, but cursing in that accent is almost funny. It’s hard to sound all pretentious and refined when you are calling someone a motherfucking asshole. Especially when you are directing that insult at someone’s grandmother.
I turned around and yelled something at them. I had a lot more guts in those days, and a lot less fear. I don’t remember what I said, I just know that I said it with a New York accent and it might have been threatening and, well, threatening in a NY accent works much better than threatening in a Cape Cod accent. So I said what I had to, something about not talking to a grandmother that way or the hard end of my boot would connect with a place on their body that would cause them to scream in pain. Something like that. I turned around again and concentrated on the game.
The third period started and the Boston fans behind us went at it again. I said nothing, but I felt the stares on the back of my head, felt the mental daggers directed at me, felt the……….ice? Soda? What the hell? I turned around and saw it coming: a downpour of soda and beer cups headed right for us. I ducked quick but I still got pelted. Someone’s grandma gets knocked in the head with two plastic cups. My little sister was drenched in beer. I was about to grab her and get her the hell out of there when she stood up – I think she was all of 13 years old at the time – and said to the guy sitting behind us “You realize you just wasted four bucks by throwing that beer at me? You people aren’t that smart, are you?” And then the ice rained down. And we started throwing back. It was like a winter storm watch in our section for about ten minutes until the security guards finally got there. They grabbed onto anyone with an Islander jersey and hauled us out of our seats.
One of the booster club leaders tried to take control. He was shouting something about “they started it first” to the guards, but really. What did he think was going to happen? They were Boston. We were New York. Strangers in a foreign land. He starts screaming to everyone that we need leave, we need to get on the bus, which was waiting outside. The hell with the rest of the game. We all grabbed our stuff and ran. No one wanted to miss this bus ride home and get stuck in Boston Garden wearing a New York Islanders jersey.
As we were lined up to get on to the bus a group of Boston fans who had followed us out gathered around and threw garbage at us while screaming obscenities.
Of course, I had to get one last word in. I had to. I’m an ass that way. As soon as I was on the bus steps, I pushed my sister ahead and she climbed on.. I turned around, looked at the small crowd of angry Boston fans as a security guard was trying to push me into the bus. I held up both middle fingers and said: “Bucky Fucking Dent!”
If you know what that means, you know I didn’t say a very good thing. The security guard shoved me into the bus and said “There’s something wrong with you, girl.”
The bus doors shut and one of the booster club people was doing a head count, making sure we were all accounted for. As the bus pulled away, the angry mob (ok, maybe it was ten people, tops) were right behind us. They were throwing rocks at the bus. I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. They were throwing rocks at us? It’s hockey. Rocks? I laughed. What a trip.
[There's a couple of new reviews up at Not Pitchfork: Dick Dale, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Diamond and King Diamond]
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