01 June, 2006

The Unity of Rings

(Indulge me a moment, folks. I'm feeling quite contemplative at the moment and want to get this out.)

When I was a child, I was an Oilers fan--the only one in my little hometown in North Dakota. I lived, breathed, ate, slept, and dreamed Oilers from their first NHL game in 1980. They were the first team I ever saw play--and whenever I could go to my grandmother's house to watch them (on her stolen cable connection), I would. Every once in a while, when the weather was just right, I would be able to pick up CHED.

When I left home after graduating high school, I lost touch with the NHL--but I still called myself an Oilers fan.

But there was this other team out on the East Coast....

...a team whose page was always the first to fill up in the Panini sticker albums that I'd get every season.

...a team that I got SO MANY cards for--way more cards for them than I got for the Oilers.

That team came to North Carolina in 1997 and changed its name from the Hartford Whalers to the Carolina Hurricanes. I went to a couple games, the first two seasons in Greensboro (I'd have gone to more if my old '73 Dodge Dart had been able to make the trip), got to know the team and the players and more than a few of the fans, but I still called myself an Oilers fan.

I was, of course, deluding myself. I didn't realize until after those two teams met the first season in Raleigh--that I wasn't an Oilers fan anymore. I couldn't be, because I didn't love them and hadn't since I was 19.

Prolonged absence, it is said, makes the heart forget--and how true it is in this case.

Not only that, but the Oilers--who had been my solace, my comfort during a very lonely childhood in the middle of the North Dakota prairies--didn't need me. They didn't need the geeky Nodak who had a mad crush on Kevin Lowe as a teenager and whose two favorite Oilers were Esa Tikkanen and Reijo Ruotsalainen (I mean really, how can you NOT love a guy with a name like "Reijo Ruotsalainen"?) They just didn't need me.

But this other team, these Hurricanes....they needed me. Not in terms of ticket sales or anything--but I just felt like they needed somebody to love them, the geeky freaky-deaky new kid in town. And the more I learned about the Hurricanes and their past as the Whalers, the more I came to get to know them, the more I found myself saying "Well shit, where the hell was I?"

The answer, of course, is that I was in a pretty one-sided relationship with somebody that more or less ignored me. So I sadly and somewhat reluctantly (because it's hard to let go of something that you've held on to for so long) cut the ties and put my Oilers jersey in a box in my closet, never to be worn again.

So, these Finals are kinda personal for me, because it means that in a way I'm coming full circle with the meeting of my past (the Oilers) and my present (the Hurricanes).

And I still feel pretty calm about all of it.

Go Canes.

Posted while listening to "Lateralus" by Tool