Windsor, ON I grew up in a very intense OHL community in Kitchener-Waterloo, ON. I know this. I understand this on many levels, yet I am always slightly taken aback when I am faced with yet another reminder of just how deep this intensity runs. As far back as I can remember the Kitchener Rangers have been integral icons in our medium sized community. A few seasons back Kitchener had a special alumni game when they hosted the Memorial Cup. All the former greats from previous Mem Cup rosters were there: Mike Richards, David Clarkson, Derek Roy, Steve Eminger, Gregory Campbell, Scott Stevens, and even Coach DILF Pete DeBoer just to name a few. I remember looking around the stands that day, and seeing clusters of middle aged puck bunnies that had all returned to see their former puck handling loves. They were bouncing around like giddy 15 year olds, and whispering about lusty tales from their youth. I remember thinking, “Oh God! Is this what happens when puck bunnies can’t cut the cord?” An icy chill quickly ran through my body as I became aware that those women could be me in 20 years. It seems that, in Kitchener at least, if you were once a puck bunny, you’ll always be a puck bunny, and I had a bizarre reminder of this at my dentist’s office prior to my spontaneous decision to take in the fourth and final game of the Knights/Spits series in Windsor that night.
My vacation from Japan isn’t just fun and games, you know, with all the hockey tickets and vats of arena poutine. I have to get all my check ups and health issues in order before facing another hockey season overseas. A dentist visit was crucial. The toothpaste in Japan is crap, and as a result I have had to purchase mass volumes of Crest during my visit home to distribute to the foreigners when I get back. Unfortunately, the only appointment I could get was on the day of Game 4. A game I had my eye on for awhile. Windsor was high up on my list of unvisited OHL arenas, so I was quite depressed when I chose to be a grown up and opt for a little oral hygiene over the hockey game. The one silver lining is that my dentist is quite the looker, so I really don’t mind him poking around in my mouth… If you know what I’m saying!
Of course, as you have probably come to expect from a girl like me, I woke up on game day totally in the zone. I was pumped up and confident that I could make the game if I booted it down the 401 after my visit to the sexy teeth doctor. So, I went ahead and secured a ticket to the game, and, for once in my life, the hockey gods were on my side. About 30 minutes later I got a phone call from the dentist’s office asking me if it wouldn’t be too much trouble to come in an hour earlier than my scheduled appointment, which gave me just the right amount of extra time for me to make it to the beautiful WFCU Centre with a nice little buffer zone. I’m pleased to report that no warm ups were missed!
However, leaving the dentist’s office that day, I encountered that old familiar sense of shame that plagued so many teenage girls during my OHL era. It was that feeling that, as a girl, we were being judged by our interest in junior hockey. Back then, if you were interested in the NHL it was probably a legitimate interest, as we were from K-W, and would never have a shot with big time talent. There was also that whole jailbait thing. But if you liked the OHL, and were the same age as the players, then you obviously had unsavoury intentions for hitting the rink. Now, whether you had unsavoury intentions or not didn’t really matter, you felt the judgmental stares, and endured the jealous comments pretty much just because you had a vagina, and made the mistake of not wearing a bag over your head to the game.
I haven’t really felt that way since I was a teenager. Sure, I still get shit on from time to time from the odd she-hating puck bunny in denial, but I’ve never really felt rattled by it until I was leaving the dentist’s office on Thursday. Perhaps it was the fact that it’s Kitchener, and nostalgia caused me to suddenly feel things I hadn’t felt in a decade. Whatever the reason, as I was leaving the dentist’s office that day, the receptionist started making insinuating intonations while grilling me about going to an OHL game, followed by sideways glances to the other receptionist that just screamed, “She’s a puck bunny, and she wants OHL player ass.” Seriously? I’m 26 years old! If I’m still not old enough to get away with going to a junior hockey game without someone thinking I’m up to something, then when will I be? What is that magic age where I will finally graduate to the legitimate fan category?
I didn’t have much time to dwell on it, though. Like I said, I was on a tight schedule, and had to make it to Windsor on time. People weren’t lying when they said WFCU Centre was a “nice rink.” I think it’s probably the nicest rink in the O, or at least the nicest I’ve seen to date. It’s quite similar to the John Labatt Centre in London, but about 5 or 6 years newer, and, therefore, slightly better.
The Spits fans were also an interesting group. They were very vocal, very engaged, and very loyal to their team. It seemed like everyone there was a season seat holder, which is what the sales departments for all hockey franchises seem to strive for, and is a great measure of success for the organization. I was unfortunate enough to have secured the lone seat in a sea of regulars, so I was a glaring intruder. Luckily they welcomed me with songs and unending inappropriate innuendoes that they couldn’t back up, which was quite the disappointment for the sex starved Japanese resident in me. Sometimes I really hate men. All talk. No action. Grow some balls already!
Despite the fact that the hometown fans were convinced that their boys were going to take Game 4 on account of the fact that “they should have won” the other three games, the Spitfires fell to the London Knights with a final score of 8-3. But the game wasn’t a total let down. The fans were having a great time, and had decided, as the third period began to dwindle down, that they were going to go out in blaze of glory.
The crowd began to chant for backup goaltender and fan favourite, Johnny Cullen. There was no real reason for it, I mean, the goaltending up to that point hadn’t actually been THAT bad, but I think the fans just wanted to see their favourite OA play one final time. As the chants persisted, even Cullen himself began to participate by beating his hands against the boards in rhythm with their song, and he even threw them the occasional thumbs up in agreement like he, too, strongly believed he should be put in. Eventually, Coach DILF Bob Boughner (you may remember him as Vice Coach DILF Bob Boughner from my Columbus Blue Jackets adventure in Carolina last season) conceded to the loss, and gave the fans what they wanted by putting Cullen in for the last 11 minutes and 26 seconds of the game. The whole incident really enhanced that tight knit bond between the Windsor fans and their team. It’s such a warm and fuzzy feeling, and it’s really nice to see once in a while.
After the game was over, and the poutine had been sampled, I was headed back down the 401 for another few days before having to turn around and do the drive again on my way to my fifth visit to Joe Louis Arena on April Fool’s day. A day that will definitely go down in infamy in the Psycho Lady Hockey record books. I think I get the award for this year’s biggest April Fool, but more to come on that next time.
Photo #1: The man himself!
Photo #2: A little fuel for the mad dash between Kitchener and Windsor. What’s the hands free policy on rolling up the rim while driving?
Photo #3: WFCU Centre in all its glory!
Photo #4: The Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor with Joe Louis Arena… I mean… Detroit.