By Julienne Mascitti-Lentz
You don't raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes.
~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.
My husband, Ron, just crossed something off his bucket list. Forty-five years ago, Ron's dad took him to his first hockey game at the Chicago Stadium. Back then there were only the original six hockey teams. The game was the Blackhawks versus the Red Wings. At that time, Ron's family could not afford seats at the game. The best his dad could afford was standing room only, in the nosebleed section. He bought the tickets for one dollar each. Ron remembers the feeling of excitement just being there with his dad, in the midst of all those other hockey fans. The standing crowd was four people deep. They were so high up that Ron said when got a glimpse of the players they looked like ants on the ice. Even so, Ron says that night at the Stadium was one of his best memories of being with his dad.
Ron always thought that he would reciprocate and take his dad to a game. But sometimes life happens and we don't get the opportunity to make good on our promises, even when those promises are to ourselves.
After Ron and I got married, we got a call that his dad had a terrible accident at work. Ron's dad worked in construction. When we arrived at the hospital, the doctors told us that Dad was going in for surgery. The doctors feared that he might lose his leg. Luckily, his leg was spared. The doctor built a cage, held by pins that pierced through his leg, that he wore for a year. The technology that held his leg together was new and we often joked that he was the bionic man. Eventually Dad went back to his construction job, but the cold winter in Chicago bothered his leg immensely. So over thirty years ago, Mom and Dad moved to Florida until just this September, when they moved back home to be close to us.
As Christmas approached, Ron wanted to get Dad something very special. He remembered his promise to take his father to a hockey game; he wanted to recreate one of his favorite father and son memories. When Dad opened his Christmas gift, there were tears of joy in his eyes, which matched the ones in Ron's.
The game night arrived. Ron and Dad were both excited about once again seeing the Blackhawks versus the Red Wings, this time at the United Center.
At the beginning of the game, they showed Red Hawks highlights for four minutes. When it was over the attendants rolled out a red carpet, two veterans walked out — one from World War II and one from the Iraq War and stood on center ice. Then Jim Cornelison, the national anthem singer, walked out. The lights dimmed and they shined a spotlight on the three men as well as on the American Flag. The veterans saluted while Cornelison sang the national anthem. Ron and Dad were proud and emotional, as I am sure many people in the crowd were.
In the United Center, there are four large screens on the scoreboard showing the score, replays of the game and fan participation. Throughout the game, the video screens showed highlights of games played in the past as well. Ron and Dad saw the game they were at forty-three years earlier as the screen continued to combine showing the old with the new!
Their favorite part of the evening was during one of the crowd scans, the camera showed Stan Mikita in a luxury suite with his grandsons, and Bobby Hull with his family in another luxury suite. Ron looked over to his dad and asked him if he knew who that was up on the screen. Dad said, "Yes, of course, the Golden Jet."
Times had changed. Ron and Dad now sat in great seats on the main level. The tickets cost more than a dollar, but the feeling was the same. This lucky father and son enjoyed simply being at the game together. And what more do you need than that?