"He shoots, and he scores” my dad would yell as he threw a tennis ball past me and into our make shift goal, during intermissions of Boston Bruins games.
Dad scored a hat trick, so I rushed him and we had a fake hockey fight.
I recall being just six years old and watching Bruins’ games with my dad. It was 1979 and my favorite player was Terry O’Reilly, the enforcer of the team. He could score, in ’78 he had 90 points and in ‘79 earned 77 points. These were his top two years in points but fans wanted to see him be physical.
Terry’s bushy hair, cocky attitude, and the overall way he carried himself made him very appealing to this six year-old. He was kind of a lovable bad boy before they called them that.
At times it seemed O’Reilly fought so much that he was a fighter who played hockey. He fought more times on the ice than Marciano, Ali, and Frazier combined, did in the ring. That trio fought a combined total of 147 times. Terry and his left hook, that would make any pro boxer envious, entered into 198 fights, plus one during his career.
The plus one fight was in that 1979 year. A fan reached over and took O’Reilly’s stick. O’Reilly hopped over the glass and starting fight with the fan. It appears he took the fan's shoe, as the fan was attempting to kick him and than began beating the guy with his own shoe.
O’Reilly would get an eight game suspension for that fight.
A decade or so passed and during a Bruins discussion with my dad, I mentioned O’Reilly and how he was still my favorite player.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Do you even remember how he became your favorite player?”
“No, not really.”
Dad explained to me that he had taken me to a hockey game when I was five or six and a fight broke out. Yes, I am aware that is not the normal way to say it.
I cried, and cried, “They are not supposed to fight”.
Apparently my crying lasted even longer than the fight. and as my dad explained it; to the point he was getting embarrassed.
I was five maybey six!
The story goes that my Dad finally leaned over to me and said…
“This is NHL hockey, son. It is okay. They are supposed to fight. It is a part of this game. People like it.”
“Oh” the five year old me said.
Then came my NHL, Boston Bruins and Terry O’Reilly fan baptism. My Dad pointed his finger across the ice and said…
“And you see that guy over there?” and then he shared “He is the best one”.
Dad finished the story by adding "that is also when you started fighting me after I scored hat tricks on you".
Watch the game, talk about the game, explain the game, go to the game with your child and chances are they will become a NHL fan.