When I was a boy, many a fall Saturday would be spent in the garage as my Dad worked on a car or a fixit job, listening to Michigan football on the radio. I would listen, cheer the touchdowns, and go attempt to re-enact the plays in my front yard with a ratty nerf football and a vivid imagination. Every so often, Dad would pile me into the car or onto our bikes and we would hoof it to Michigan Stadium mid-game. The reason? Back in the day, the ushers opened the gates for the fourth quarter and you were allowed to go in.
My first sense-overloading experiences of football came from this. The immense crowd, the noise, the field... awesome. And always there, guiding me, enjoying the time with me, was my Dad. The memories are priceless.
He's gone now, and I have daughters of my own. They are growing up to bedtime stories of Jesus, their late grandfather, and Michigan football and hockey. Living in Duluth, I teach them to root for Michigan first and UMD second (this caused no small amount of distress last April). So it was not completely unexpected that when I listened to a despairing Bruce Ciskie describe the dying seconds of a catastrophic first period for UMD that the thought of a late-game visit with my girls first crossed my mind. Perhaps someone would leave the game early and offer a ticket stub or three?
"Nah," I said at first. It's late and we have to be up early tomorrow. Yet those whimsical memories of my Dad were inescapable. Sharing special moments with one's children is priceless. An opportunity to share a piece of my father, the love of their daddy, and a game I treasure was at hand.
As UMD went into the second intermission down 5-0, I tore out the door. 5 minutes of driving later I had not two but three tickets, enough for me and both girls, and they were being roused from bed for a "mystery adventure" by my wife. Coats and boots donned, hats on, my daughters found themselves rushing around Amsoil Arena, in the entrance, past a kind ticket-scanner, around the concourse, and into seats.
From there, oblivious to Pairwise and conference realignment and Mel Pearson and UMD's shocking lethargy, my daughters experienced their first college hockey game with their dad. "Go Bully Dogs!" they cried, as they cry "Go Blue" whenever Michigan scores on tv. "I see the screen!" Line changes were explained. The puck was pointed out. The announcer thanked for the time update. The full-color, full-volume hockey experience.
I shared a beautiful moment with my children. And with my father.
All because of a game.