Why I’m a hockey fan: Thank you, Bob-O

If only we all had random French-Canadians in our lives as helpful as Bob-O.

Welcome to the refreshed The Ice Garden site! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

For some of our women’s hockey fans, there are not one, but two stories of hockey fandom: how they became a hockey fan, and how they became a women’s hockey fan. Photographer Al Saniuk is one of them. This is Part I of his hockey fandom, you can read about how he became a women’s hockey fan here.

It was my senior year in college. I went to UMASS Lowell, now perennially in the hunt for the Hockey East Title and entrance to the Frozen Four Tournament. I didn't care about hockey then. Didn't like it. Didn't want to like it. I was a basketball and a baseball guy. That all changed suddenly, when in order to be in a dorm next to some good friends, I moved into a room with a kid I didn't know who went by the name of Bob-O.

Ah Bob-O. Who knew that a random French-Canadian kid would change my life so completely.

You see, Bob-O was a die hard Boston Bruins fan. He had every game on in the room, and as a result I watched a andful of games with him throughout the season. I got to know a few of the Bruins names such as Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, Phil Kessel, and David Krejci (it was the 2007-2008 season). A working knowledge of the big players on the team. Nothing more than a casual interest to have something to talk about with the roomie.

Then the Stanley Cup Playoffs began.

This day will forever remain a firmly entrenched in my memory. I remember it vividly; sitting down on the couch right before the start of Game 1. Bob-O put the game on mute, walked up to me, placed his hand on my shoulder, looked me square in the eye and said, "This is Playoff Puck Al. There's nothing in the world like Playoff Puck." He accentuated the last sentence with a few firm points of his finger in my general direction. It almost seemed as if he was pointing directly at my heart, willing the Playoff Puck into my already packed heart, sending it to fall somewhere between my love of Swedish Fish and The Beatles.

It was as if my eyes had been opened. I felt like a prepubescent teen given the right of passage into manhood. I sat on the verge of unimaginable glory, grit, skill, sweat, and heart, as I watched the Bruins (#8 seed) take their arch-rival Montreal Canadiens (#1 seed) the distance to a Game 7 of the first round. Ultimately the Bruins lost, and Montreal went on to the next round.

These men beat the living snot out of each other for 7 straight games. And at the end of it all, they still had the integrity to line up, shake one another's hand, and wish them luck in the next round. Apologies to any of you who still like Baseball and/or Basketball, but to me, after witnessing this, there is no contest. Hockey IS the greatest sport on the planet.

Bob-O's words to me before the playoffs changed my life in a drastic way. I would not be the man I am today, or in the place I am today, if he did not introduce me to the miracle that is hockey.

Every year right before the start of the NHL Playoffs I pay a little homage to Bob-O. A remembrance of his prophetic words. A quick toast (preferably with a Canadian beer. Labatt if possible). I text my buddies we lived next to in the dorm to remind them and wish them a happy Playoffs.

I haven't seen Bob-O since we graduated 9 years ago. I wonder if he knows how much he has influenced my life. It's not likely he knows the length to which hockey has completely and utterly engulfed my life. But sometimes you never know how your actions will influence others. Passion is infectious. Don't ever stop doing what you love, fiercely. Who knows, some day it could change a life. It did for me. And I am eternally grateful to the man, the myth, the legend. Bob-O.

Thank you Bob-O.

And now I must retire to go watch Game 6 of the West Conference Finals :)

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