I never knew there were so many hockey fans at Sun. Most folks know Scott is a
long-time fan. But now I find that
Hal Stern is a fan, too. Unfortunately for him, he roots for the Devil's.
How does an Alabama boy who grows up and moves to Southern California
become a hockey fan? There is no real winter in either place. I was born in Huntsville
during the space race. My father was in the Army Signal Corps and got stationed in
Huntsville at Redstone Arsenal. After World War II that is where many of the German
rocket scientists were designing rockets and missiles and dreaming of going to the moon.
In 1950 the population of Huntsville was about 15,000 people. It wasn't even the biggest
city in north Alabama, and when they designed the interstate highway system, it didn't
even warrant a close pass. By 1970 Huntsville had about 130,000 people, most of them
attracted by the space race and the US Army Missile Command. The town nickname is Rocket
City. Most of the people who came to Huntsville weren't from Alabama originally.
Many people came from northern climes and one of the passions they brought with them was
ice skating. My parents are from northern Ohio and grew up with the cold and winter sports.
Us kids learned to skate at a young age, but during the '70s it got too expensive to keep
taking lessons and getting ice time, and I discovered soccer.
When I was in high school I also took courses at the University of Alabama
in Huntsville who had a pretty decent soccer program, but a much better hockey team. As a
student, I could get into the games for free. This came in very handy as an inexpensive way
to go out and have fun without spending too much money. The team was quite good, compared to
the competition, and often won.
Later, when I went to
Mississippi State University I was somewhat shocked to find that not only did they not
have a hockey team, but the nearest rink was over 100 miles away. Meanwhile, UAH went to
NCAA division II and won titles in 1996 and 1998. Now the Chargers are in NCAA division I,
and often play teams from up north (Wayne State is next,
January 7) so they face stiff competition. Occasionally I can catch a game on
Another event that occurred during that time was cable television. Huntsville is about
200 miles from Atanta, and we would get to see some Atlanta Flames games. Prior to cable,
the only games we could see were those carried by "big 3" networks, which was and is still
quite limited. The Flames weren't very good, and moved to
in 1980, where they have had some success. I still root for them on occasion.
Also in 1980 we were able to see the Miracle on Ice, with the US Hockey team winning the
gold at Lake Placid. My friends and I really enjoyed watching that incredible feat.
During the mid-1980s through 1999, I didn't follow hockey much. I wasn't living in
Huntsville anymore and Atlanta didn't have a team to follow. In 1999, I moved to Southern
California. The Kings and
Ducks are nearby, so I can see
many of their games on TV. Although neither are dynasties like the
Red Wings, they do play some pretty good hockey.
The Ducks had a phenomenal season in 2003, very entertaining, with a bittersweet ending.
My wish for Christmas and the New Year is a return to the rink. C'mon guys, get your
act together and work out a viable business plan. Although I do like watching the classic
games, it is a little bit anticlimactic since I know that the Kings always win the
King's Classics games. What do you say? Do it for an ex-pat Alabamian hockey fan!
P.S. Hal, whether they play or not, the Kings and Ducks are still better than those Devils.