As you know, August is the doldrums of the hockey year. Nothing happens, and though we still hold out hope we'll have a trade to discuss soon, the CBA negotiations are probably going to keep that at bay. So we've decided to run this feature for the next week or two, which will include contributions from you, dear reader. But I'll kick things off with my first favorite Hawk.
I honestly couldn't tell you why Rick Vaive became my first favorite Hawk. He was only around for a season and a half. He did score 43 goals in his only full season in an Indian Head. But this was the 80's, when pretty much everyone had at least a 30-goal season on his resume at some point. Maybe it was because he was traded for my brother's favorite player, Al Secord, and even at the age of seven I was interested in anything that pissed my brother off. In retrospect, I would love to tell you that Vaive's and Steve "Stumpy" Thomas's acquisition delighted me because it meant the exit of Eddie Olczyk. But I didn't have any idea who Eddie O was at that point. Oh, the things I would do today for that blissful piece of ignorance.
Maybe it was the fact that he wore 27, and even at that young age I thought that was a cool-looking number (as well as being the date of my birthday. And yes, that number played a part in my falling head over heels for JR). Maybe it was just that i thought two V's in a last name was pretty cool. Maybe it was because for a chunk of his stay, after breaking a jaw, Vaive had to wear a full shield and that was the first time I'd seen something like that. To me it made him look like a cool robot or droid or something. I don't know, I was seven.
What I can tell you, and is one of my brother's favorite stories, is how heartbroken I was when Vaive was dealt to Buffalo for the biggest pieces of shit ever to grace the Old Stadium in Adam Creighton. One of my favorite stories is saying that name to Judd Sirott when he was producing the original Afternoon Show on The Score and I was in my child caller days. You've seriously never heard a string of swear words like Sirott put together about Creighton. You may think you have, but you haven't. I think he combined motherfucker, cocksucker, and douchebag into one word several times. I don't know, at the age of 13 when I heard it I kind of blacked out.
My brother tells a story about after the acquisition of Creighton, a previous night's Hawks highlights were on the 5pm news. Creighton scored one of his very few Hawks goals, and my brother thought he would taunt me by pointing it out. Instead, I just put my fingers in my ears and faced the other way.
But this isn't about Creighton. Vaive was actually decently sized for the day, something of a power forward before they became truly in vogue. He skated well, I think. He obviously had a nose for the net. Can I tell you a lot about seeing him live? No, not really. The years and self-inflicted damage of worn away those memories. I remember an OT winner against the Flyers, and I'm pretty sure it was a wrap-around. But I'm not totally convinced. What I do remember about that game was sitting in Josh Mora's father's seats, and having two eight-year old girls carrying a pro-Flyers sign up and down the aisle, a lovely gesture from some cowardly Flyers fan. This led to the entire section I was in egging me on to taking the sign away from them, as I was that age, and only having my brother stop me. I was always headed on this path, wasn't I?
But the reasons now aren't important. What is is that Vaive served as my first favorite player, which kept me attached to the Hawks. Maybe it was because he wasn't Savard or Larmer, and early punk rock sensibilities were kicking in. I had to be different. Whatever it was, one boy's affection for Rick Vaive helped provide him a lifelong connection to the sport, and eventually led to dedicating his "professional" life to it. And that's enough.
Now it's your turn. Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write your own fanpost that we can move to the front page, or maybe leave them in the comments here. But we don't want to hear about Hull or Mikita or Savard or Roenick, we all had those (unless it's really, really well done). We want to hear about the lesser-known players who mysteriously drew you to the Hawks and hockey. We'll be running these as long as you provide them.