Offhandedly V tells me, “I’m going to go to a sleep over with my sisters next Friday. I guess you need to find someone to go to the game with you.”
The game she was speaking of was the upcoming Tri-City Americans versus the Victoria Royals. V&I are season ticket holders for the Ams and we try not to miss games. We really enjoy watching the young men play and while the games sometimes don’t end the way we like, we have a good time. The couple that watches hockey together – stays together. I will add here that my left leg and arm are sore after most games too because of the pounding they receive from V. The back-to-back nights are especially grueling.
Hockey holds a special place in our hearts. That’s not because I played as a youngster or V had any experience with the game before we met. Our first date was a game against the arch-rival Spokane Chiefs, which by-the-way the Ams won by a wide margin and I told V during the din, “Every game is not necessarily going to be like this one.” However, V was hooked on hockey by the end of the first period. This past New Year’s game against “The Enemy” was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of that first date.
I learned the game of hockey later on in life as I took USA Hockey coaching credential classes to assist coaching my son’s youth team. I also took skating lessons, obviously. The hardest part for me was learning how to skate backwards. I certainly am thankful there are no Youtube vids of that floating around.
Hockey came about in “The Tri” due to a team relocation associated with the Western Hockey League (WHL). The team had to have a place to play so the Coliseum was built. The groundbreaking ceremony for the building occurred on the day my son was born. Isn’t that amazing? Two of the coolest things to happen in my life and I’m quite sure, Alzheimer’s notwithstanding, I’ll not ever forget that day.
Some time later, as part of the Tri-Cities Amateur Hockey Association (TCAHA), I personally visited all the high school athletic departments in the attempt to get hockey integrated into the school sports program. Thanks to that effort the sport did get established as school clubs but not a fully sanctioned Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) sport. Life is full of give and take, isn’t it? An incredible little side-bar to go along with that story is the very first Tri-Cities high school hockey championship game was held in the Toyota Arena constructed next to the Coliseum and also known as “Rink B.” Much to my disappointment I didn’t even get to see it! I arrived late to the game by about 15 minutes as I got held up at work and the Arena was filled to capacity and they wouldn’t even let me in! At that moment I remember thinking, “That portends great things for the future of high school hockey in The Tri.”
The Ams are celebrating their 25th year anniversary this year. During the years there have been times it looked as if maybe the team would move, I am grateful they haven’t. We have had a great number of young men transition to the NHL and it certainly has been fun to see them “in the early days.” I’ll not go into other details in this article, with the internet at your fingertips you can research more if you desire. I will say though that another wine guy, Eric Degerman, wrote an article covering the Am’s first home game in the local newspaper. I read it again for nostalgia’s sake just a moment ago. What a great job of reporting there, Eric.
The question remained, “Who should I invite for the upcoming hockey game?” I ran though several names in an instant but didn’t really settle on any. Anyways, it was time to watch the biggest football game of the season. That means food and beverage, which are not a bad distraction all things considered.
Earlier in the week we decided the food experiment would be the all-American dish, lamb tangine. We paired that with a 2007 Fidelitas Malbec. Not your typical football game fare but it certainly worked for us. The lamb was falling-apart tender and vegetables and spices of cinnamon, saffron, cloves, chili pepper flakes, nutmeg, ginger, tumeric, cumin, and smoked paprika, filled the air. I think I remember using the term, “Incredibly aromatic.” Included in the dish and providing a sweet counterbalance to the savory elements were apricots and dates. Just imagine lifting a forkful of that to your lips and well before it arrives that entire aroma fills your nostrils. It is simply put, an amazing dish. Lesson learned here…read the label on the Medjool date container and make absolutely sure it says the word, “Pitted.”
B&V’s routine for tasting wine remains unchanged so time for the 2007 Fidelitas Malbec to undergo the tried and true sequence of events. A little wine is splashed in the glass and it is inky, a very deep purple. We put noses in the glass and with a deep breath, experience the fruit and vineyards of Conner-Lee, Stillwater, and Milbrandt. Not a thing wrong with that so far – Beautiful. Next, we make big swirls of the fluid in the glass to integrate some oxygen and take a long sniff. The fruit forwardness of the wine is even more pronounced. We are eagerly anticipating that first taste, but we need “The Clink” prior to that or it wouldn’t be B&V. It happens and now the taste. V tells me she gets “plum.” I on the other hand, get “Delicious” and a finish that never, ever, seems to end. Not ever.
We try the first forkful of the lamb then a sip of the Malbec. Amazing! The fruit of the wine marries well with the lamb and makes it a meal unlike any other we have put together, at least to this point in our life as one. The wine enhances the spices and sets up the next bite regardless of whether it is the vegetables, the meat, or the fruit. In addition, each bite is indeed better because of the wedding of those components in your mouth. Just like B without V is, just B. We are indeed better together. Those Moroccans are on to something, but they have to be resigned to do it without the 2007 Fidelitas Malbec. Their loss is our gain.
Oh yeah, there’s a football game on, and those special, high dollar, commercials which intersperse the plays. I am so caught up in this meal I kind of forgot. What a life.
It seems the game is on hold – a majority of the lights in the stadium have gone out and my mind wanders to who I need to invite to the hockey game. I got it! I’ll invite my son. We haven’t seen each other for a while. I miss talking with him, seeing him, making jokes.
I instant message him and he replies, “I’m in.” Fantastic! I try to contain my excitement. However, I do that about as good as those fans that paid great sums of money to attend the game, were stopped in their enjoyment because of the half-hour power outage and are now rejoicing that the lights just came on and the game is getting started back up. Sorry 49er’s and Ravens; Friday can’t get here soon enough for my way of thinking.
The work week goes by, Friday night is finally here, and I am waiting for my son. Punctuality has never been his strong suit and I seem to have been waiting for him ever since he was born. He arrives in time for singing the anthems of Canada and the United States. Yes both are performed, if one of the opposing teams is Canadian. It is fun to sing “Oh Canada.” If you have ever been to a game in Canada and listened to the fans sing out, you would think Americans are unpatriotic. That is not an exaggeration.
We catch-up on all the things going on in our respective lives during the first period. We have to do that with eyes forward not wanting to miss good hockey with back and forth, up and down action. We talk and laugh, as if no time has passed, yet in reality it has been quite some time. It seems to me he is now finding his way in the world. Punctuality has never been his strong suit.
I cannot be more proud of him. He’s been working out, taller, better looking, smarter, and has more hair. He’s a better guitar and piano player too. He certainly seems to have his share and then some.
First period is over and it is time for intermission. As luck would have it, the TCAHA Mites, children four through six years old, are playing an exhibition game. I start to get a bit misty thinking about those times with my own son, when he was that age, the times when he was even younger, then to when he was older and an adolescent. A fleeting thought crosses my mind, “Am I going to live long enough to see one of his children out there too?”
Enough of that – I mentally switch back to the game. The rest of the game goes by in a blur. The second period, during intermission we catch up with parents of fellows my son played hockey with, then the third period comes and goes. The Am’s come out on the short end according to the scoreboard. However for me, it was a glorious hockey game, inclusive of controversial referee calls and non-calls, hits, goals, and a fight. I relish every second, and with the end of the game I am more than a little disappointed that the game doesn’t go into overtime. I haven’t had this much fun with him since we attended the visit of the Stanley Cup when it came to the Tri-Cities as a fundraiser for the Carson Kolzig charity during which, I will add, I put my finger right on the plate with the names of the 1972 Bruins. Remember that rivalry I wrote about?
We shake hands, hug, and wish each other the best as we part ways. What a gift those two and one half hours were. Who knows, he might have been thinking the same thing as well – he could have spent that time with is girlfriend. She is definitely cuter than me.
I am hoping the time between our get togethers doesn’t take that long again.