Barn

written by:

Sean Egan

         I once went to a hockey game on Long Island to watch a struggling hometown

team play a game for which I had to look up the score the next day. The first thing

I did when I got to the Nassau Coliseum was buy a Bud Light. The second was take

a piss.

         I placed the beer on top of the urinal and fired away. The beer slipped and

dropped into the urinal as I was peeing. I watched it fall as I made the

split-second decision to let it go rather than lose my grip and risk a piss stain

on my jersey.

          “Motherfucker.”

     “Hah,” the guy in the urinal to my left said.

    “Don’t even think about it, bro” said the one to my right. Sound advice if the beer

didn’t cost sixteen dollars.

    For the record, Bud Light doesn’t taste all that different with a little urine.

   Hockey is a strange, manic sport and it’s my favorite thing to watch. The players

work magic with their hands while basically running on knives. I’ve never played

it and I don’t think I’ll ever try, but it’s a wild show. I’m not cut out for that kind of

fearless finesse and violence, but I’m thankful there’s people who are.

     In 1979, Mike Milbury played for the Boston Bruins who were not known for

their congeniality at the time. In a game at Madison Square Garden that year,

Milbury jumped over the glass and into the stands, skates and all, to beat up a
Ranger fan with his own shoe. Mike did not get fired or shunned from the league

or the Garden. In fact, he continued on to have a good year and a Hall of Fame

career. He’s a personality on NBC these days. I once got fired from an office job

for getting my days mixed up and doing casual Friday on a Thursday. Mike and I

come from different worlds.

     During a game I was watching a few weeks ago, there was a big hit and a skater

went airborne. His skate grazed Johnny Boychuck’s neck and Johnny went down

for a second before shooting right back up - touching his neck and checking his

fingers for blood. He was calmer than I thought a person could possibly be after

nearly getting their throat cut open on live television. I’d cry first and check for

blood later, I think. He then lifted his chin for his teammate to look and asked,

“am I good?” He was, and he continued to play. I would have said, “Am I cut? No?

Cool, I’m retiring.”

      You’ve got to be tough as leather to think about playing a game like this. I wanted

to play as a kid when I lacked sense and a healthy fear of brain trauma but hockey

is a pricey sport to get into. Between the cost of all the equipment and league fees,

my parents made the decision that baseball was a better fit. There are leagues for

adult beginners but I’ve seen too much on-ice carnage to give it a go.

      Growing up, my team, the Islanders, sucked and was always the butt of the joke,

but that meant tickets were cheap. I went to countless games. We would get drunk in

the parking lot, bum cigarettes from older guys, and use our student discounts to

get some five-buck nosebleeds. The place would be half empty and we would make

our way down to the good seats where, if we were lucky, a puck or a tooth would

land nearby.

      The Islanders had their moment of glory in the 1980s when they won four

straight Stanley Cups, but I missed all that. At most Long Island bars there’s an

old guy who will tell you stories about Bobby Nystrom getting into a bar fight

there or Billy Smith showing up at their house party in ‘83 and sleeping with their

sister. Those guys didn’t even wear helmets back then - their only line of defense

against a slapshot screaming towards their face was their mustaches.

      The fans today are still rowdy but the Coliseum is not the party it was back

then. People would bring their own cases of beer and bottles of liquor into the

game (and then probably drive home, let’s be honest). Smoke from cigarettes and

joints would get so thick that people in the top rows couldn’t see the ice. Beer

cans would rain down on opposing players in the penalty boxes and fist fights

were a regular occurrence in the stands, hallways, and parking lot.

      While I can’t imagine that chaos and am admittedly enthralled by the tall tales,

I was content with watching my floundering team in my cheap seats as a kid. There

was no pressure since most of the games I watched as a kid were meaningless

with regards to the rest of the league. It was just fun for the sake of killing boredom.

    My team is a contender this year, which is a surprise to everyone, but I go to

less games because of work and money. When I do go there’s a noticeable weight

with each pass and turnover that was never there when I was younger. Every missed

call takes us further from the playoffs and each goal brings us closer to The Cup.

There’s an electricity now that I’m not used to but would like to get to know more.

    The seats are full every night and the chants from the crowd are relentless. Flags

are waving from the top sections each game and fans are celebrating by honking

their horns in the traffic jam after each win. It’s one of the few things that makes

me proud of where I come from.

    It’s crazy but I think the $16 beers are worth it.