Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 2, 2013

Mardi Link: Hockey fan by marriage

BY MARDI LINK, Local columnist

---- — When it comes to sports, my husband tells me that I come as close to being the ideal wife as any woman could.

And when I say "sports," I mean watching them on TV, not actually playing them. That would be a different column, for a different publication, and perhaps only of interest to readers of Mad magazine or Cracked. If you get my drift.

But from my very own couch, snug in my pajamas, I can tell you what a horse-collar is, which NFL teams run the best two-minute offense and what makes a flyball pitcher a flyball pitcher. I get short of breath just thinking about the Super Bowl and March Madness.

But the reason I only come close to being an ideal sports wife, and don't actually meet the mark is because I've never been much of a hockey fan. That's a problem, considering that I married a man who grew up in Minnesota and was weaned on 5 a.m. skate clinics and backchecking drills.

On our honeymoon, we drove to his homeland and visited the NHL Hall of Fame. While we were there, my beloved groom actually spent several minutes contemplating the "Evolution of the Hockey Sweater" exhibit. He might have even teared up a little while I rolled my eyes.

So a year or so ago I sought to remedy this flaw in my character. I'd find a local hockey team to root for. I'd start small, with a recreational league, then work my way up to being a fan of the NHL. Three things put my plan in motion: 1) listening, over and over, and yes, over again, to my husband's oh-so-precious "I could have been a contender" hockey memories; 2) realizing we lived within a slapshot of Centre Ice; and 3) my husband's impending birthday.

Could this be an opportunity to cross both "become hockey fan" and "find special birthday present for husband" off my to-do list? Yes, dear reader. It definitely could.

And so we reported for duty, he on the ice in breezers and elbow pads and garters and gloves, and me in the stands in long underwear and Chapstick. After his first game, I waited while he showered, packed his gear in a hockey bag the size and shape of a Zamboni and bonded with his team. I anticipated his gratitude, his love, his appreciation as he exited the locker room, face flushed with health.

"What are you trying to do, kill me for the insurance money?!"

That initial reaction aside, he's stuck with it and so have I. We have become a hockey couple. He's the player, I'm the dedicated fan.

Now that the Red Wings are back, we sometimes watch the games together. I can even find the puck most of the time.

Mardi Link is a Traverse City writer and the author of "Isadore's Secret." Send comments and questions care of the Record-Eagle or via email at