Opening Night

Never say “I’m going to do as many shots as goals when the Leafs play,” because you’re only going to black out and finish the bottle.
………………………………………………………………………………..– Unknown

I used to get together with a buddy of mine in Vancouver to watch the Leafs games on Hockey Night. Out west it worked out well – the Toronto game would be done by seven, so you could then go out and do whatever the fuck you wanted.

Part of it was where I was at in those days. In a wild transition phase of my life – 22 and finally leaving behind the sciences in an attempt to “be more social” and “a lot less awkward.”  Thankfully, I befriended the perfect mentor for the cause.

He was originally from back east, spending time between New York and Toronto. He’d lived in my old dorm the year after I did, and a year later he was dating one of my close friends, and living relatively close-by. On top of that, he was one of the most extroverted and outwardly confident people I had ever met. I had much to learn from him.

I used to head over to his house around four in the afternoon (didn’t get a lot accomplished on Saturday afternoons in those days). We’d cook a meal, smoke heroic amounts of BC bud, and eat and drink while the Leafs played. For a while, our drink of choice was vodka and we’d usually get quite lit by the third period. Although, there was something rare about the combination of youth, liquor, a heavy pre-game meal, and the counteracting dope that always leveled us out pretty well. We’d be fully functional and ready to go out by the end of the game. This is something I could not even fathom being able to achieve nowadays.

There were few traditions in those days, but one of them was to toast the Blue and White when they scored a goal, and again if they’d won. Thankfully, this was the 2007-08 season, so thanks to Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala we weren’t exactly pounding down the celebratory shots all that often.

By the end of that season we’d established what was, to us, a pretty amazing tradition. As well, I’d become a much more socially adept, well-rounded person. By the time the summer rolled around, I’d come out of my shell a bit; I felt could take on anything. Sadly, I wouldn’t be around for the next season. I wouldn’t even be in the same country.

I took off to Slovenia for a year and in spite of all the great things I got to see and do, I really missed these afternoons of liquor and hockey. Out there, if I wanted to watch a hockey game, I’d have to stay up until 1 AM for the puck drop. If I could convince someone to watch a game, they would oblige more out of novelty than necessity. Suffice to say, there weren’t a lot of Leaf fans to tune in with me. I couldn’t wait to get back to Vancouver and start the next season with our old tradition. Surely it would be just as we’d left it.

And so, the first Saturday night of that following season, 2009-2010, we met again to relive the old tradition with a bottle of booze and a whole lot of dope. This time we were no longer at Dunbar, instead calling Downtown home. Sure, it was a new setting, and a year had passed where I’d seen and done some of the most amazing things in my short life (a statement which still stands to this day), but none of that would matter. I was back, hockey was back, it would be just like it was. Only, of course, it wasn’t.

Something changed. Maybe it was just the time away, or better coming to terms with who I was – no longer worrying about complying to some ill-fitting standards that certain cities can force upon you. Whatever the case, it just wasn’t the same anymore; It didn’t fit.

It was opening night and we decided to go big. A shot for every goal, Toronto or opponents. The Leafs lost 6-4 that night to the eventual President’s Cup Champions. It didn’t help that the Capitals scored about ninety seconds in. It was 6-1 before the second period was over. I was sloppy by seven. He passed out in the third. Fucking Ovechkin.

That was the last game we ever watched together.

What’s that old saying: You can’t go home again?

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One Response to Opening Night

  1. Pingback: Watching Hockey in Europe (on TV!) | Alligator Wine

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