Saturday night’s on-ice result in Boston sucked. No way around it. The score, the injuries, the sadness of a second-straight 5-1 loss in Boston. I witnessed it all firsthand.
That being said. I had a great night. That’s because Saturday was a quintessential dad moment for me: I got to take my son to his first Avalanche game.
This was a moment that I had been looking forward to since he was born and after my wife agreed to a name chosen from the 2001 Stanley Cup-winning roster. Here we were, Dad and Blake, ready to watch the Avalanche together.
We had told Blake that he couldn’t go to an Avalanche game until he was 5. Those were the rules, we said! (We also hoped he forgot going to a Devils/Blackhawks game when he was littler so he didn’t have any follow-up questions for us…) So Saturday night in Boston with Dad and the Avs was his birthday gift.
Before I go any further, I want to stress the following: the staff members at TD Garden were AMAZING to him all night. He got buttons, bracelets, TWO warm-up pucks, free popcorn and Blades (the mascot) came over to the seat when he found out that this was his first Bruins game. I’m from here… I know the perception Boston and New England people have, and it’s not totally unjustified. We tell it like it is and don’t sugarcoat things. Sorry.
What many people don’t realize (or want to admit), is that the vast majority of New Englanders — like everywhere — are great and friendly people. It’s the stereotypes that drag the perception of us down.
Most people assumed I was from out of town because of my team attire and Blake wearing a button that read “My 1st Bruins Game.” They were very friendly… especially when it was 3-0, reminding me that my team won the Stanley Cup last year and we would be ‘alright.’ I laughed a few times when they would ask if I had seen some of the touristy sites around the city and I answered “yes, on my third-grade class field trip in 1994.”
Before leaving our house in New Hampshire — only about an hour and 10 minutes north of the city (with no traffic) — Blake and I planned our clothes for the night. He opted for this Bernie hat, Nathan MacKinnon 8-bit video game shirt (great choice) and his MacKinnon Air Force Stadium Series jersey (the worst jersey in franchise history). I let him pick for me, giving him roughly 20 jerseys to choose from. He went with the Joe Sakic 1997 road Starter jersey I got going into seventh grade (still fits!). I threw that over a Stanley Cup hoodie (it was cold), added a backward hat (because I’m 37 and it still looks cool) and we were off.
We sat on the ninth floor at the Garden, which is the same level as the press box in the recently renovated arena. Great views because you basically hang out over the balcony and also has couches, chairs and concessions all behind you with only two rows of seats. So much room for activities!
We made our way down to ice level for warmups where a couple was nice enough to let us sit down on the glass so he could watch the Avs up close. A bit startled by the initial roar of the bear over the PA and the blasting of music, he settled in. He waved at players as they went by. He correctly answered the quiz questions I was throwing his way about who each one was as they skated by him in a blur. It was at that moment that I thought my brainwashing had gone too far when he recognized Jean-Luc Foudy (no offense) with only minor probing.
The highlight of warmups was when he turned around and was looking at me. I asked him what he was doing instead of watching the players and he responded very matter of factly, “I want MacKinnon to see his name on my shirt so he knows I’m cheering for him.”
Oh my god.
At the conclusion of pre-game, we started back up to the ninth floor. While heading up the stairs to the main concourse level, Bruins fans in their seats on the aisle gave him high fives, I assume because he’s so damn cute (like his old man).
We ate M&M’s, popcorn and pretzels while reading the roster sheet waiting for the game to start. When it did, he didn’t seem to care as much about the play on the ice as all the bells and whistles of this impressive arena. He was scared of the bear roars at first but grew to think they were funny by the end (we heard them too often).
After the second period and roughly two hours after what should’ve been his bedtime, we started to walk around to the other side of the arena to meet up with Adrian Dater (you know him, right?) outside of his seat in the press box. He and I chatted for a bit and talked about his weekend in New Hampshire up at Dartmouth. I told Blake that ‘Mr. Adrian’ had been at Blake’s favorite place in the whole world the day before: Thompson Arena, home of the Big Green.
Mr. Adrian tweeted this out, but chose to make us anonymous!
Hanging with Avs fans here in Beantown pic.twitter.com/I1MfOCPhny
— Adrian Dater (@adater) December 4, 2022
On our way to meet Dater, an usher called me over and gave us a warm-up puck with the team logos on it. Another very nice gesture. On our way back from Dater, we returned to find Blades in our seats. Another moment of apprehension was short lived after I took a picture with the mascot shrugging my shoulders at the current 3-0 score. Blades made a circular gesture to the woman walking the ninth floor with him and she pulled out another warm-up puck that Blades then handed to my guy, turning his apprehension into appreciation and eventually a nice picture (even better looking back at the picture and seeing Bernie making an appearance on his hat).
We made it to about five minutes left in the game before I remembered we parked in the fourth level of the garage below the arena and the parking/traffic issues that Dater railed against the other night were very true. For a town built around cow paths, Boston’s street and city planning are really poorly designed!
I gave him a piggyback ride en route to the elevator. During that walk, the Bruins made it 4-1. While we waited for the elevator to make its way to us, the Bruins then made it 5-1. Fans for the home team waiting with us started to give us some good-natured jabs and asked the 45-pound lump on my back how his night was. I told them that the night was a birthday present and he also got a Stanley Cup hat and shirt… a reminder who the defending champs were. That subtle retort elicited some laughs and smiles.
We got to the parking level and Blake held my hand (parking lots rules!) and skipped as we made our way to the car, singing some made-up song about the Avalanche along the way. Some fans down there told us not to hang our heads and we’d be okay. You know it’s a bad night when the fans of the defending champs are being consoled afterward.
When I was buckling him into his car seat, I asked him if he had fun and he screamed “YES!” but did mention he wanted MacKinnon to score. I told him the first Avalanche game I went to with my dad when I was little was a 4-1 loss and Joe Sakic didn’t score either.
After getting out of the congestion around the arena and on the highway, I looked back in the rearview mirror, saw his little face and a faint smile in the warm glow of his tablet. He could’ve been smiling at the Sonic game he was most likely playing or it could’ve been from the night he spent with his dad. I hope it was the later, but recognize it was probably the former.
That’s okay, the smile on my face was from the night I just had with my son. Experiencing a game with a team you’re passionate about with your kid for the first time is a top-5 dad experience.
Was I upset with the result? Yes. The game sucked and I’m getting frustrated (like everyone else) with the growing list of injuries. However, watching my son’s excitement with every aspect of the night helped soften the blow and put things in a much better perspective.
At the end of the night, Blake asked “Daddy, when I’m six, can we go to an Avalanche game in Colorado?”
Winning is great. Winning is fun. Being a dad is better. Now… let’s start saving for a trip to Denver for a sixth birthday.
Bad game. Great night.