(Ed. Note: Our series "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" features puckheads from all walks of life revealing five things that either made them a fan or that keep them watching hockey. We're bringing it back periodically. Have a suggestion for a "5 Reasons" guest blogger? Hit us on email. Enjoy!)
Marty Vance started Bangin' Panger way back when in 2008, asometimes humorous, but mostly not, no-holds-barred look at the league. He also currently writes at Fanball's DoubleEdgedSabres, covering the Sabres for the network. You can also follow his musings @BanginPanger, if you're into that whole Twitter stalking thing.
A native of Hershey, PA, Vance grew up on Hershey Bears hockey, but is one of the unfortunate folks who religiously follows the Buffalo Sabres.
Here are Five Reasons Marty Vance Loves Hockey.
Just think about it. You need to catch a game that's not on TV; where do you head? A bar. You pass through the ticket gate; first pit stop? Beer (or bathroom; depending on how many Appletinis you had, Wyshynski knows what I'm talking about). You take a load off after a grinding day of 9 to 5; flip on your Versus mandated event of the evening; and your next step? A perfect pour.
It's just completely unavoidable for me now. Don't act like you don't know what's on tap behind your section. Don't act like you won't walk half way around the damn arena just to find your brew of choice, even if it's dotted with rodent, um, presents.
Plus; look what that combination of beer and hockey does to seemingly normal people; they become ravenous beasts intent on believing the Leafs can still make the playoffs, they burn cop cars, they ostensibly wonder who let the dogs out, and they move entire franchises to Arizona. Maybe hockey doesn't make me enjoy beer more, but sometimes, beer makes me enjoy hockey more (looking at you Devils vs. Wild matchup.)
2. The Voices
Go ahead; ask anyone their top 5 NHL announcers. I guarantee you the homer picks their guy first. Down here in D.C. Washington Capitals fans will defend Joe Beninati to your ears bleed, whether over his garish tie or his overblown emphasis on nothing. And go ahead, try to tell Mr. Penguins-fan-since-2005 that there's more talent in Randy Moller's crotch than Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey combined; they'll take you down harder than Hobey Baker.
But for me, boy oh boy, it doesn't get any better than listening to good old Rick Jeanneret boast and bellow. And you know, I think bellows is the right word; after all; he is the best. From classic calls like "Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-Fontaine" to "Top shelf where mama hides the cookies;" this guy is as much a face of Sabres hockey as Perreault, LaFontaine, or Hasek. But he's more than that; he's the voice of Sabres hockey.
There's just something about listening to your guy, regardless of who it is, putting our game into words, bringing the play into a crescendo of excitement and emotion, only to fall back again when absolutely nothing happens. It's the ebb and flow of the game; and exactly why we watch.
I guess there is definitely one thing we all can agree on; Pierre McGuire sucks.
3. Hersheypark Arena
I have to give a shout out to where I started my journey as a hockey fan. Good old Hershey, PA, home of the AHL's most prestigious franchise; the Hershey Bears, your 2009-2010 Calder Cup Champions.
You folks who got to grow up going to NHL games; yeah, I envy you. But I'm sure for everyone that grew to love the game in a NHL arena; there are plenty of people who grew up with the game in the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, hell, if you were lucky, maybe even the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. At this point, I feel like Yahoo! should sponsor an ECHL arena; The Puck Daddy Rink at the Taco Bell Olive Gardens sponsored by Cohiba. That sounds good.
Personally, I spent plenty a night of my childhood in the frayed, beaten, and splintery seats of the old Hersheypark Arena. That place might make Mellon look like Atlantis, it may make Nassau Coliseum feel like Dubai, but hell if it isn't where I grew up with the game, and that means something.
4. That Old Garage Door
Nothing is worse than trying to play a little ball hockey than having to put up with terribly patched macadam. It's like playing on Verizon Center ice; just absolutely miserable. Cement is a far better option; smoother surface; unfortunately, that probably caused a hell of a lot more problems than fun.
I'm sure each one of us had that spot where we fired balls and pucks as kids. Sidney had his mother's washer and dryer and Jordin Tootoo(notes) had an igloo, but my net, oh it just sat in front of a pair of garage doors, with glass windows, then they got plexiglass windows, then new siding. Most of that was me and my brother's faults.
Emulating Jason Woolley firing slap shots (that's right, Jason Woolley reference) from the point to going snipe city on the poor kid we forced to strap on pads; that garage door took a literal beating. How we didn't after the multitudes of broken panes; well, I guess there is mercy in this world.
There's just something universal about picking up a stick; grabbing a puck; and going snipe city on your little brother, especially when he got hit in the balls. Hilarious.
5. NHL 94
Yes, I love all the EA games. But this is the one that started it all for me; NHL 94. This is the game that caused a 9-year-old kid from Central Pennsylvania to spurn the Legion of Doom and the Penguin Mullet Mania and adopt the Buffalo Sabres as his team. Was it the logo? Was it Mogilny and LaFontaine? Who knows, I was a kid. After all; Buffalo is like this mysterious place where nobody lives or works but somehow is the home to both a NHL and NFL franchise.
I can still remember exactly what I did as soon as I started a game. Press start, change goalie, replace Grant Fuhr with Dominik Hasek(notes), win the opening faceoff, skate up the right edge, cut in front of goalie, through the crease, far post, and score.
It was a great start to my hockey fanaticism. Unfortunately, at that age I never knew the heartbreak I was setting myself up for with Buffalo Sports. Without that single NHL 94 SNES cartridge, I could be swilling Iron City with Leahy clamoring about how Lemieux is greater than Gretzky, I could be talking about how our top 8 defense is strongest in the league, and all the while completing ignoring the fact Michael Leighton(notes) is still our starting goaltender. Man; that would suck; like Jeff Finger(notes) suck.
But instead, you get to hear me bitch and moan about what could have been if Drury and Briere stayed, how Ryan Miller(notes) is the real great American hockey hero, and defending the City of Buffalo to anyone that dares besmirch the Queen City. Thanks EA Sports, thanks a lot.