Sports commentary: A Desert of Ice

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There's no hockey in these parts; only hockey stories

By Mike Forster


The iceman cometh, but not in these parts.

I've gushed previously on the wonderful attributes that adorn life in this area of Virginia.  

Now, I'm griping.

Where's the hockey?

Now, I fully realize that neither the town nor the county of Bedford has the population or the inclination to support pro hockey at any level.

I also understand that the introduction of the sport at the high school level is too pricey a proposition to merit even consideration.

But, you would think that there would be some level of the sport within a short drive of Bedford.  Alas, we live in a hockey desert.

When the wife and I lived in Richmond, just prior to moving here, we used to go to Richmond Renegades games.  That was Richmond's minor league hockey team, part of the East Coast Hockey League.

The closest pro hockey we have is in the form of the Carolina Hurricanes.  Guess what, they don't charge 12 bucks a ticket, like the Gades did.

The ECHL no longer has a team in Richmond.  Roanoke also lost its Express franchise.  Today, the ECHL has teams in Utah, California and Alaska.  I'm not sure how easterly any of those places are.

Still, I've a warm spot for the old ECHL. 

In fact, two of my fondest memories have to do with the wife and that Richmond team.  

She became fond of one of the team's players:  a fellow named Richard Pitirri.

Of course, Pitirri is long-retired from hockey.  But, in his prime, he was a darn good hockey player.  The wife also liked his swarthy good looks.

A non-jealous type, I fed into the wife's hockey crush.  As gifts one Christmas, I got her some Richmond Renegade earrings and a button that bore Pitirri's face.  

That set the stage for the wife's big letdown.  After her guy had done something  remarkable on the ice (at least in the eyes of the wife), she turned to me and said, "That's my boy."

Immediately afterwards,  a young man sitting in front of us turned, looked and asked, "Oh, is he your son?"

That's called being welcomed to middle age in a cold-hearted fashion.

The wife had another memorable experience centered around Pitirri.

Well, it was memorable for me, anyway.

During the course of each game, the announcer would let the fans know that a particular Renegade player would be available for autographs.

On one particular night, that player was to be "her boy."

Seizing the opportunity, I swung by a shop at the arena and purchased one of Pitirri's old hockey sticks.  I think it cost fifteen bucks.

I gave it to the wife, whose first instinct was to chastise me for blowing 15 clams.

But after the game, there she was, standing in line with her Richard Pitirri stick.

When it was her turn to get her item autographed, the wife did something I'd not seen her do before.  She froze.

If you happen to turn on TBS on Christmas day, you can't help but catch the movie A Christmas Story.

If you have, you'll not forget the scene where little Ralphie finally gets to ask Santa for a Red Rider BB gun.  Ralphie is struck dumb until the department store Santa offers him a football, then boots him out of the store's North Pole.

The wife had a similar fate.  She stood dumbfounded in front of Pitirri who, by the way, was being assisted by his own wife.

She got the autograph, but never was able to talk to her guy.

So, here's the way I figure it.  Hockey must be a powerful sport if it can leave your wife speechless.