What It Feels Like to Fall in Love

January 5th, 2008…the day my life changed. I wish I could say that my story is beautiful and poetic, however I can’t…but I can say, that day was a pivotal point for me. Within a day and a moment my life switched paths.

Let me set the scene for you…

Here is a young(ish) girl. An uprooted New Yorker living in California. A girl with no real passion for anything in particular. No hunger, no joie de vivre (though not for lack of trying to find one). She walked through life – aimlessly it seemed – knowing that there was something more out there for her…a place that she would fit into (where everybody knows her name?), and a passion that was just as eager to find her as she was to find it…but what was it?

She went to school…tried her hand at a couple different majors…Fashion Merchandising Management, Marketing and even toyed with the idea of becoming a Geologist. But something was missing. She thought maybe she could go to trade school to become a mechanic, after all – she had a huge love for all things automotive…but really, did she actually want to be a mechanic? Heck no!

Everyone told her to stick to what was safe…and Business was safe. Did it feel right? Absolutely not. She knew there was something out there…one thing that would just grab a hold of her and not let go. One thing that would make her happy, genuinely happy, for the rest of her life…and almost like how the hair on the back of your neck stands up before lightning strikes, she could sense that it was about to find her and hit her like a ton of bricks.

Fast forward to Christmas time 2007…my mother-in-law decided to purchase a 3-game Shark Pak for her husband for Christmas. I had known that he was a huge Sharks fan but didn’t really know any more about it other than that…heck (I’m embarrassed to say), up until earlier that year I didn’t even know that the Bay Area had an NHL team. Don’t forget, I’m an “ignorant New Yorker” (do any other states even exist?). Needless to say, my husband and I were asked to accompany my in-laws to one of the games. January 5th, 2008 against Columbus.

I wish I could say that the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming game resulted in a week-long cheesy smile plastered on my gorgeous face, put I can’t…I was going along with it because it was something to do, and I had a mild curiosity for what a pro-hockey game actually felt like. Now, before I go any further you must realize – I had no interest in sports for 24 years of my life. None, zilch, nada. Not for a lack of effort though, I mean I’ve been to my fair share of Yankees and Mets games, I even used to play basketball when I was younger and of course lets not forget, followed my high school football team to the Long Island Championships…but really, I hated it. All of it. I was a daddy’s girl and my daddy didn’t like sports. (Not his fault at all, he’s way awesome in other aspects) My daddy liked to teach me about cars, trucks and anything mechanical really…and I absorbed it like a sponge. I was the anti-sports girl who would much rather go tear down a Chevy small block than watch a single play of the Superbowl. Sports and I, we just didn’t see eye to eye.

The day of the game came up faster than I had anticipated and I remember it was a cold, dark, rainy night…
A night I would have preferred spent at home, watching Deadliest Catch re-runs and cozying up next to the dead Christmas Tree…but alas, I found myself walking down the dark, wet streets of San Jose, on my way to HP Pavilion.

I had no idea what to expect. I had nothing to gauge this on, and I definitely skeptical that I was actually going to enjoy it…

I remember rounding the corner and seeing the Tank in front of me…my heart almost skipped a beat. It was gorgeous. The closer we got, the more I felt something stirring inside me. Then we walked up the cement steps and through the doors of what looked like a crystal palace…and that aroma hit me…the smell of cold icy air, hot dogs, beer and churros…and I swear, I’ve never smelled a more comforting aroma in all my life. There was also something else I noticed…something I couldn’t quite put my finger on but now understand…there is something like a buzz, a current of energy that reverberates throughout the Tank on Game Night…its something that I’m sure every arena has, but this was my first time to feel it.

It was amazing to see all the people donning jerseys and t-shirts and feather boas, and teal wigs and face paint, all these people who had two things in common…one, they were all completely and totally devoted to this Sharks team, and two, they all wore the biggest smiles I had ever seen in my life.

As we climbed up to our “nosebleed” seats, I remember thinking “wow, you can actually see pretty dang good from here!”

Then the puck dropped…and my eyes never came off the ice. It was like I was in a trance (a trance which was further compounded by seeing Steve Bernier on the Jumbo-tron after he scored)…and speaking of scoring, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the celebration that erupted when we scored for the first time that night…it was a feeling that, believe it or not, I still get at every single game and it never gets old…its like an electric current just runs through the Tank. Almost like you could literally power the entire city of San Jose with our energy alone. As something I had never experienced before, this completely blew me away. I kept glancing over at my husband and giving him the look of “Why the hell have we never done this before??”
I have recently come to the conclusion that any man who denies his girlfriend/wife the chance to attend a live hockey game is guilty of a form of domestic abuse…yes, take him to the Police and file a report ladies…

It seemed as though with every minute that passed in the Shark Tank that night, something was changing in me. I felt like an Autobot (a cute one) transforming into something badass…but I didn’t know what. All I did know was that I was feeling a couple things that I had not felt in quite some time…and never to this extent.

Joy…complete unadulterated joy in its purest form. I knew I had stumbled something huge. Something that sparked a fire inside of me like I’ve never felt before. While I watched the players fly down the ice with such ferocity and determination I felt like everything else in the world just faded away…all of my worries, all of my stress…I have never felt more right in all of my life…watching the puck pass crisply from stick to stick as the players cycled around the net, I was just in awe…fully immersed in absolute amazement and wonder.

The other thing I recognized making an appearance was an overwhelming sense of pride…unless you’re a sports fan, player (or parent I’m sure) you have yet to truly experience the true meaning of pride. Actually, it wasn’t until recently I realized that pride is a lot like a seed. You plant a little piece of it initially…and with some time and some TLC it begins to grow…and grow…and grow…and grow to the point where it doesn’t even all fit inside the arena on game night. Instead it overflows out into the city and surrounding towns…soon it begins to touch anyone who comes in contact with it.
I strongly believe that there is no pride felt that compares to that of a hockey fan’s…
Why is that you ask? It’s simple…there is absolutely no sport as glorious, graceful and amazing as hockey.

Simply thinking about how in one night, three hours actually, one single hockey game transformed the old lack-luster, sports-hating, no direction finding Joanne into the one putting pen to paper right now…it just amazes me.

Ever since that day I my life has never been the same…and its not just as simple as saying I became a sports fan. Any hockey lover will attest to the fact that its more than just a sport. Falling in love with hockey has proven that it doesn’t only take over your life, but it takes over your heart. Our players are more than just athletes, our arenas are more than just ice rinks, and our fellow fans are more than just friends.

Every time I stop to think about the past ten months, it completely blows me away. I think of how lucky I am to have opened my heart to the greatest sport on earth…and all the joys that have come along with it. I have felt the pride of being a hockey fan, and the thrill of reliving that pride every time I write about the game….but the best part of all (by far) is the people I have met and connections I have made since falling into this community. I cannot even begin to express my thanks to all of the friends I have made. You all have truly shown me that the core values of this sport don’t only exist in it’s players…I have never seen so much compassion, intelligence, heart, character and of course pride…you have all played a huge part in helping me find what it is I have been looking for…

Today I was walking through a store and a little notebook caught my eye…and the quote on that notebook really kind of covers it all…

“What you are comes to you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Indeed it does…

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