"If anybody slams me against the boards, I'm going to pee all over myself."|
The above quote is from the immortal movie Slap Shot. However, I’m pretty sure the statement could also be truthfully uttered by 90% of the people standing behind the glass in the home team’s zone at Fargo-Moorhead Jets hockey games.
The Fargo-Moorhead Jets: The latest attempt to try and make Junior A hockey fly in a town that would rather watch their parochial schools try their best not to embarrass themselves in basketball. The past three attempts at hockey in this town have ranged from “forgettable” to “completely shameful.” You had the Sugar Kings back in the seventies playing hockey the way it was meant to be: Blood, guts, and a ledger firmly in the red. Then there were the Ice Sharks who were coached by Dave Christian, a member of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. The Ice Sharks were a lot like that team, except for the fact that the Sharks had no dramatic upsets or inspirational runs to victory, and that the 1980 team actually scored some goals.
The team that sums up Fargo's pristine junior hockey legacy the best, though, is the F-M Bears. They were quite successful in 1995, their inaugural (and farewell) season. They were so successful, in fact, that they were eligible for the playoffs which was an accomplishment in a community where 80% of the residents think that hockey is a voodoo cult from Canada, while another 10% believe it is a macaroni dish manufactured by Betty Crocker.
You may wonder why I put, “they were eligible for the playoffs.” Most people would just put “they made the playoffs.” But I couldn’t, because they didn’t actually take part in that tournament. While the Bears were eligible, their Denver-based owner didn’t have the money to pay the playoff fee and the team forfeited all their games.
Fargo hockey and Chapter 11, best friends forever.
After the Ice Sharks skated off to Chicago much to the chagrin of the Hammerhead Lounge patrons, we were left without a junior team yet again. But in the year 2003, that all changed when the Great Falls Americans were hijacked, gutted, and renamed the Fargo-Moorhead Jets all to the delight of myself and at least three other people in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
In their first year, the Jets not only were eligible for the playoffs, but get this, THEY ARE RUMORED TO HAVE ACTUALLY PARTICIPATED IN THEM. I say that they were rumored to have, because after the most-lopsided 3-0 broom job in junior hockey history, the Jets too, were history. Perhaps the team should’ve saved themselves some money and followed the Bears' example.
The John E. Carlson Coliseum is home to the Jets. When the Ice Sharks played there, they cleverly referred to the building as “The Tank.” Now that the Jets reside there, the building has been re-nicknamed, “The Hangar.” These nicknames are pretty silly and few people who don’t want to be publicly ridiculed use them, but they serve a vital purpose. When the announcer calls the building “The Hangar,” the minds of the fans drift to how dumb that sounds, rather than to how much of a dive the building is. The seats are as hard as rocks, the lobby is too hot and the playing area is too cold, and the ambience is on par with your typical morgue. Outside of those things, the Coliseum is a pretty terrible facility.
The Detox Section
While in the Coliseum, we discovered long ago that the best place to sit is on the west side of the building, near the visitors’ bench and right beside the beer garden. The crowd here is the most rowdy, supportive, and inebriated bunch in the building. Pretty much anything goes here since nobody with a family dares take their kids there, since doing so is grounds for having your children put into foster care. A drunken younger crowd is known to shout anything, throw hats onto the ice twice in thirty seconds (without a hat trick in sight,) and start some truly memorable chants. I long ago came to the conclusion that somebody there could take out a gun and snipe a linesman but as long as he put the gun away and bought another beer, there’s no way he’s getting thrown out.
The Jets mascot is a giant eagle named "Ace." He's pretty unspectacular, especially in comparison to the Ice Sharks' "Chomp," but I'm firmly in his corner. The visiting fans from Bismarck think they're pretty funny when they shout "KFC! KFC!" as he walks by, but the only people that actually laugh at that kind of comedy are test-market hockey fans who are paid by Procter-&-Gamble to encourage mindless morons to continue developing lame crowd chants for future generations.
The official chant for our group of fans is the "Anderson" chant. Started in honor of a goaltender from Billings, "Anderson" becomes the default name of any goalie from any team. It should be said in the same manner as the famous "Darryl" warble that Mets' hecklers used to use (ANNNNNNNN-DER-SOOOOOOOOON.) One need not be bashful or quiet when utilizing the magic verse. The following is a true conversation.
Brady: What are you saying?
Brady: What's the goalie's name?
Brady: (Puzzled grunt)
At present there are four (maybe 4.5) people that can be accurately classified as "legends."
It was like that with the Boz. When you first saw him you wondered why in the world he was playing here, but then he started to skate and you realized why. Bosworth's skating ability was comparable to a newborn foal staggering around with little hope of making any significant gains in distance. This was problematic because many journalists have theorized that skating may be an integral part of ice hockey. More than once did I see Bosworth just slip and fall unaided by anything but his clumsiness. And when he'd try and fight somebody? Oh man. He couldn't fight because he couldn't stand on his skates. An entire Boz fight was shown on the evening news one time because it was over in five seconds. It's tough to fight back when one punch or light exhale knocks you off of your feeble feet.
Nolan's not the biggest guy, so Preece pounding him isn't that big of a surprise. But to hear Nolan tell the story, in your mind you were picturing Preece as either Godzilla or Godzilla's mean older brother, OhMyGodzilla, who was hell-bent on beating the tar out of poor forwards from Alexandria, Minnesota.
For his tales and our cooperative debauchery, Nolan Kriel receives Honorable Mention status in this category.
The Cougher- This guy works at the Coliseum. He used to move the nets for the Zamboni between periods and after he had moved the cage to the corner, he'd always let out one big cough. He no longer moves the nets, but is still at the games often, presumably coughing after any extended physical activity.