Perhaps it’s a bad omen to start writing for a hockey blog with a lockout looming, but as Sondheim so pithily wrote “Isn’t it rich?/Isn’t it queer/losing my timing this late/in my career?” (Bonus Points should be awarded for the using the words ‘Sondheim’, ‘hockey’, AND ‘queer’ in the first sentence).
And as it turned out, PuckBuddys needed a correspondent for an expansion team that DID actually work, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and even though I live in Orlando (Motto: The City Beautiful – Trademark Pending) which is a GOOD hour and a half away from Tampa (Motto: Our Traffic Is Worse Than St. Petersburg or Clearwater), I have managed to see quite a few games live and the rest through telecasts since 1998 and I heeded their call.
But what else about me (besides the fact that I love parenthetical statements)? I suppose I should start by giving some hockey cred. I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan – well yes, okay, the suburbs – and yes, that makes me a diehard Wings fan. Go ahead, I expect your hate. I understand that it’s merely misplaced jealousy of an Original Six team with the record for the most postseason appearances in ANY sport and a number of Stanley Cups one of which was in this decade. (cough, Montreal and Toronto, cough). Everyone fears the Winged Wheel.
But I come by this loyalty honestly. My dad was friends with Marty Pavelich and stayed with Marty’s parents in Sault Ste Marie when the Wings held training camp. In the afternoons he would golf with Marty, Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe. Wow, I shiver just typing that. Oh, and he received a punch in the face from Jean Beliveau but he doesn’t really like me to mention that.
Anyway, when the Wings won the cup in ‘52, my dad was able to find out the hotel and room number where they where holding the party with the Stanley Cup and worked his way in. After drinking champagne from the sweetest trophy in the sporting world, he was kicked out by the equipment manager, but WHO CARES?!?!?! He got to drink from the Cup!!! And this was long before the days when the Cup made its Summer Tour of Love to small town rinks across the globe so it was doubly special then. Hell, it’s still special. My dad tells that story to everyone, but so do I (obviously).
Dad even found a woman originally from Texas and converted her to hockey (much as expansion would do to Texas later, but far less romantically). And as a wee lad I saw games at the old Olympia, but what I remember the most about the Olympia was seeing the Ice Follies (girls in feathered headdresses)!
Which brings us to the gay part. There’s a wonderful piece of family lore that sums this up nicely: When I was just three and a half, my father got front row tickets for the Shriner’s Circus and we were right underneath the act I always refer to as The Hamster Wheel. It’s two wheels, one smaller than the other and connected by what reminds me of large Erector set construction. Two performers, one male, one female, could be inside or outside the wheel running while the whole contraption spun around. My mother was incredibly frightened and worried what I thought with it all taking place right above our heads. Apparently, I just turned to her and said “That lady has a run in her stockings.”
While this should have been a big clue to my parents, they just thought I was a burgeoning leg man. On one fateful afternoon, my mother called me inside from my usual running around the yard to see a movie she thought I might enjoy called “Singin’ In The Rain”. It was that day I realized what I wanted to do: Sing and dance in movie musicals which I soon discovered Hollywood was no longer making. Then I decided to be a professional actor and proceeded to get a BFA in Musical Theatre (most practical degree there is Kids!) and then an MFA in Theatre Performance. Notice that ‘Theatre’ has that ‘re’ ending which despite what spellcheck may believe is a perfectly acceptable spelling and actually fancier than regular ‘theater’, thank you very much.
But as you may be aware, “Life upon the wicked stage aint ever what a girl supposes” (“Showboat” for those heteros and Gaga-centric homos not in the know) so my career has been filled with many different types of gigs (I once marched around in a drum major outfit with sparkly cape on the Fourth of July and got paid for it!) but I am currently the Director In Residence for the Florida Opera Theatre, so I think have this gay thing in hand (No pun intended).
But here’s the lovely point where the gay and the hockey start to intersect. I went to a party one night where I met my partner of eleven and a half years, whom I shall henceforth call “Long Suffering Partner” or LSP. I was wearing my Fedorov Red Wings jersey and as it turned out, LSP was familiar with Fedorov and the Red Wings having had a previous boyfriend who was a fan. As he was cute and interested in hockey I obviously didn’t want him to get away. We started watching games together and eventually moved in together and never looked back.
I knew it was true love when we were discussing finances and I said we could save money by not purchasing the Center Ice package and he turned to me and said quite firmly, “The Center Ice package is a necessity, not a luxury.” Eventually we met our friend, who shall receive the codename “Other Gay Fan” or OGF and together the three of us brave the craziness of the I-4 corridor to watch Lightning games.
So how did a devoted Red Wing become a part of the Bolts Nation? Well, that’s an excellent story for our next meeting. No, I’m not a tease…. I’m just prolonging the excitement.