Where I grew up in central North Dakota, there was no hockey–that was for the big towns, for the Class A schools in Fargo and Grand Forks and Minot and Grafton and Bismarck. It wasn’t for tiny little Class B schools like mine–for us, basketball was king followed by wrestling and football.
After my paternal grandmother turned the rest of the family against the three of us (my mom, myself, and my sister) when I was 12, I was cut off from the purloined cable connection that was my lifeline to my favorite sport.
I had two avenues of redress–waiting for those nights when the atmospheric conditions were just right and I could pick up CHED or WCCO in the hopes of hearing a game, and staying up after midnight on Sunday to watch the George Michael Sports Machine and catch up on all the highlights of the week.
It was all I had. It was how I saw Steve Smith own-goal the Oilers’ chance at a fourth consecutive Cup down the drain. It was how I saw Kevin Dineen make Larry Robinson look like a pylon and force a seventh game, and saw Claude Lemieux turn around and break the hearts of the Whaler Nation in that seventh game. It was how I saw a promising young rookie named Scott Stevens playing for the Capitals and a rookie Devils forward named Brendan Shanahan, who would plunge a dagger into the hearts of Whalers fans in 1997 and plunge it again into the hearts of Caniacs in 2002. I saw a young redheaded defenseman that would become one of the Hurricanes’ tribal elders trading punches with Vlady Konstantinov in Piestany in 1987, thanks to the Sports Machine. It was my hockey-lifeline during those tumultuous high school years, and soon it’ll be relegated to the same place as every other part of my childhood.
Thanks for the memories, George.