I was never a hockey fan until I was 14 and then I fell head over heels for the sport. One game was all it took. I was a rabid fan of the Ottawa 67’s from 1995 through 2001 when I left the city. When I moved to Belleville in 2001 I started going to Bulls games, though I still went to see the 67’s when I was home for the weekend.
For my 15 birthday I asked for a jersey with my favourite player’s name on the back – #23 Troy Stonier — and I wore it every Friday, all day before the game.
Hockey changed my life.
I spent my last year of high school doing coops that would start me on a career as a trainer or athletic therapist for a hockey team. When I made a quick and dirty change of plans and found a better path for myself, I was going to be a sports writer. I graduated from journalism school and did my internship in the Ottawa Citizen sports section. I still have my media passes from the two NHL games I worked at (covering smaller stories while others covered the game). I got to interview some professional hockey players (my favourite of which was Olaf Kolzig, who is one of the most well spoken people I ever interviewed).
During my time as a sports reporter I got to meet Brian Kilrea, and after my official interview was over I told him that he had been an inspiration for me. The first ever press conference I went to was when Jason Spezza was traded to Belleville and I was surrounded by national media covering the future start. Spezza is my favourite Senator because I got to watch his progress for years.
Life changed when I became a hockey fan because it gave me a purpose and a happiness that I hadn’t had because I had started going through depression, though I wouldn’t be diagnosed until a few years later.
I woke up at 4 am during the Nagano Olympics so I could watch the hockey games, I found the one spot in my room where I could get reception for the Algonquin radio station so I could listen to 67’s away games. When I was in college I drove to Barrie to see the Bulls wind up their playoff run – partly for an assignment and partly because I wanted to see the end of the season.
One of my best memories is flying back to Ottawa after visiting my mother in Regina, and heading out to see Canada vs. USA in the World Junior Championships, and then buying tickets to the gold medal game because it’s the best tournament in the world and when would we get another chance?
That was the last time I remember being a full on fanatic.
I feel like hockey has ebbed out of my life.
I find it hard to watch games on TV, so I don’t often watch, and we don’t often get out to games – especially now that the kid needs her own seat. We’re far from 67’s games now, though they’ll be playing very close by next year and I’m hoping we’ll go out to some games, but I won’t recognize any of the players.
It’s so weird to feel like this big part of my life has sort of disappeared and when I’m talking about games I don’t really know what’s going on.
Next year the Women’s World Hockey Championships are in Ottawa. We’re close by and we’ve got a daughter who loves hockey, and I’m going to try and go to a bunch of those games. For me and for her.