Albany River Rats

Yesterday was the last Albany River Rat’s night at the Times Union Center. I can’t believe in less than a month 24 years of AHL hockey in Albany will be over.

The River Rats were the franchise that was here originally, well before Hartford_Whalers_Logo.svgmy time. Orginally affiliated with the New Jersey Devils, they switched affiliations to the Carolina Hurricaines (which started life as the New England/Hartford Whalers – which has, I may add, had the coolest logo).  When they were sold to a group of investors to be closer to the home team the New Jersey Devils moved their franchise from Lowell Massachusetts to Albany (about 2 1/2 short hours from Newark) to be closer to their home turf.  This brought some upgrades to the Times Union Center including NHL quality locker rooms.

So, you may ask, what does this have to do with my becoming a NJ Devils fan.  Well, when I moved out here, my friend who grew up going to the Rats (and became a NJ Devils fan through those same Rats games) told me about hockey.  Not being from a town that appreciated hockey (well, at least Dollar Bill Wirtz didn’t appreciate hockey), I didn’t get to see many games – since they were not broadcast on television until Rockey Wirtz took over the team.  I’m a bit bitter about this, but that’s ok.

It was a good night. I, of course, wore my Martin Brodeur jersey.  And I ran into my friend and was able to hear some good news.

My FIRST real Devils Game

I had an awesome opportunity to go to a New Jersey Devils game.  Since I have YET to find a girlfriend who isn’t a cart of baggage and who loves hockey I asked my friend Jason if he’d be willing to go with me to a New Jersey Devils game.  Jason was one of the first folks who I met up here who was into sports and is a HUGE NJ Devils fan.  I think he can recite every stat in their history.  (The backstory is that I sat behind him in training class when the Cubs and Mets were playing and gave him crap since I was from Chicago…little did he know at the time that I hated the Cubs.  He took my ribbing in good stride and my nose has mostly healed by now…maybe me being a Devils fan was a result of a little Tony Soprano, but that’s ok…)  Jason became one as a wee lad watching the Albany River Rats with his Dad.  Unfortuantely, my Dad couldn’t share his passion for the Chicago Black Hawks (he used to go with his friend Palmer).  You see, Dollar Bill Wirtz thought broadcasting the Hawks on TV would destroy his season ticket holder fan base.  As such it was 2008 when ownership passed to his son Rocky that the Hawks began to be on TV (and when they started being good).  I refuse to like the Black Hawks for this very reason.

I had only been to AHL games to this point – having gone to the United Center to watch the Wolves (which I nearly forgot) and then the Alabany Devils (which is how we really got connected).  So we embarked on the 2 1/2 hour long journey.  Jason navigated since he had been there before and made sure I made it up to see New York City’s skyline – which is a place I have never been.  As we walked along he shared with me knowledge of the Devils and extreme patience as clearly I knew just a fraction of what he did.  And he patiently taught me the way of the arena.

We were playing the Wild.  One of their players, Zach Parise, was on the Devils in days past.  We booed him.  And after each goal we yelled You Suck.  Jersey life is different.  I saw, but did not meet NJ Devil (the mascot).  I had my first Taylor Ham in the form of Strombili.  And they were nice enough to win in periods.  Life was great!

The best part is that Marty’s statue was dedicated.  I had so much fun, more than I would ever expected.