Requiem for My Hockey Team - Aaron Gordon
On a cool, bright spring day in April of 1997, Matthew Olsen and his wife Jennifer left their newborn son for the first time. With the boy in his grandmother's hands, the couple donned their Whalers paraphernalia-Matthew picked his newer blue Whalers road jersey over his classic white home sweater, a decision that he regrets to this day-and took the 30 minute trip from Middletown, Connecticut to Hartford.
On the drive, Matthew thought about his years following the Whalers. As a child in Guilford, he proclaimed his love for the team the day they were accepted into the NHL from the WHA. He scraped every cent he could from a $5.65 per hour job as a short order cook in his MIT dorm so he could go to as many games as possible. He thought about the time in 1992 he and his college friend impulsively grabbed all the cash they had and, at 3 AM, got in Matthew's Ford Probe and drove to Ottawa for the Whalers game. He remembered the border patrol agent asking them, "Are you really driving four hundred miles each way to see the two worst teams in the NHL?" He remembers answering without a hint of shame, because he was a Whalers fan and so he had become immune to that particular emotion, and then being waved into Canada, as some unwavering love for hockey was the only entry requirement.
He thought about the dust-ups at the old Boston Garden when Bruins fans didn't take kindly to his classic Whalers sweater. He thought about how he would never be able to watch the Whalers with his son, a bond he always imagined they'd share. He thought about all this as he and his wife rode silently to the Hartford Civic Center one last time.
Scott Tomford's family had two tickets to the final game. As the first-born child a day shy of his tenth birthday, he naturally staked his claim to one of them. Scott and his mother set out in the late morning, talking about literally anything other than what they were about to witness. Scott's parents didn't know how to explain why this game was special, so they didn't try.