It was a late-at-night college kid problem, but it was still a problem.
Bob was a New York Islanders fan, but hadn’t seen him team upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs because he was at our college’s senior ball.
Even worse, it was in the pre-internet, -streaming, -texting, -Twitter days, so he had no way of knowing what had happened.
Which is how I wound up “crashing” the ball.
It was my roommate Kit’s idea. Also a senior, he had just come back from the ball, and when I told him the news, he decided we had to tell Bob.
Don’t worry about it, he told me, the ball was almost over and they were letting anyone in at that point.
So off we went. The ball was in a hotel right around the corner from the Utica College campus.
As I recall, Bob was happy to hear the news.
“So it’s easy to be drawn once again to the powerful embers of ’93, to a time when the game offered you something you felt in your gut and produced more of a visceral reaction.”
— From “The Last Good Year,” by Damien Cox
I’ve read Damien Cox’s writing on and off, and I’ve liked it, but the “embers of ’93” are why I wanted to read his book, not about the Penguins/Islanders series, but the next round between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings.
It was my junior year of college, the year Doug Gilmour of the Leafs became a superstar, and our favorite player watching “Hockey Night in Canada” Saturday nights on CKWS.
It was an Ontario station that we managed to get in our dorm rooms, even without cable, and even though we couldn’t get the CBS affiliate from Syracuse without watching in the downstairs lounge, which had cable. Supposedly it had something to do with a hill between the two cities.
The Sega Genesis turned my TV into a hockey arena of its own, either games or “goon tournaments,” where we’d line guys up to fight each other while everyone else laughed and hooted.
Some combination of Kit, Mix, J.J., Joe and I were usually at the controllers. Andi would join in sometimes, Piv and Egenberg once in a while.
Beyond the hockey-in-the-dorms group was Bob, Sharon, Kris and Denise. A bunch of us worked at the college radio station with Sue; Kit and I tutored at the Writing Center with Irene.
They were basically my second generation of college friends, the first group having graduated after my sophomore year. I was the bratty underclassman with that group, then became the (OK, probably still bratty) upperclassman.
For two years, life outside of class revolved around my dorm room in South Hall, Kris’ and Sharon’s dorms over in North, the radio station, the cafeteria and the Writing Center … and the people I was with in each of those places.
As college kids go, most of our hijinks were mostly on the tame side, but we have a million stories — Mix apologizing to a Windex bottle he kicked over in the middle of the night, six or eight or 10 of us piling into Kit’s car on a late-night whim to see the Turning Stone casino that had just opened, Piv’s “make love under a tree” weather report on the radio during a rare warm day in Utica.
I will tell you that Kris and I had an inside joke where we pinched our thumb and forefinger together and them split them apart. I will not tell you what it stood for, and I absolutely will not tell you what inspired it.
Another thing I won’t tell you … how Egenberg got his nickname.
But it’s bigger than the stories.
It’s how none of us hardly ever did anything alone. We were always in groups of two, three, five, six or eight to 10 jammed into Kit’s car, even if Mix didn’t appreciate Kit’s audio tour of his hometown due to it being sometime after 1 a.m. and no one being able to see the lake, anyway.
It didn’t really matter what we were doing. What mattered is that we did it together.
“Much has changed in hockey since. But the tale those teams wove remains as entertaining, compelling and meaningful as it ever was. It’s a joy to revisit.”
It’s 26 years later. It’s hard for me to even say that.
In about four weeks, I’ll officially have been a college graduate for 25 years. It’s hard to say that, too.
Most of us are married — the picture at the top of the post is Piv, Mix, J.J. and me at Mix’s wedding — and Mix’s daughter recently asked him if “Mr. Fonda” was going to come watch WrestleMania.
I did, but not before telling her that calling me Bill is just fine.
Mix and I live 20 minutes apart, which makes it damn near criminal that we don’t get together more often. UC doesn’t play many football or basketball games in our part of Massachusetts anymore, but we’ve gotten together with J.J. for games when they have.
Bob’s annual letter is a highlight of the Christmas season, and Kit and I still sign our Christmas cards “P.S. Oilers suck” or “P.S. Flames suck,” as the hockey teams we rooted for (and he’s still passionate about) are Alberta rivals.
I usually see Kit the years I got to Reunion Weekend, and Kris has gone a couple times, as well.
My wife and I met up with Bob when we vacationed in Philadelphia several years ago, and I had lunch with Sharon when my wife was at a work event in New Haven, Connecticut.
And there has been at least one absolutely spectacular falling-out.
But probably like most people our age who scattered after their school days were over, we mostly keep up on social media — Egenberg grew up well! — particularly Facebook.
So we don’t get to do a lot together anymore, but it’s still cool when we do, and it’s fun to revisit.