On the Barn Last week, Gregg Mace from TV27 asked me how I was introduced to Hershey Bears Hockey. I have been a fan for so long that the question threw me off. Nobody has ever asked me that before and it was asked live during our show taping. After he asked it, I paused and all this emotion came rushing to me. I answered the best I could and we moved on to the next topic and he asked other questions about me and how hockey is part of it.
In driving home after the show that night, I kept thinking of Gregg’s question. “Why did that question stick in my head?” I asked myself. At times I thought of all the memories and moments from Hershey Bears Hockey that made me who I am today. Some good, Some great but mostly how the team and the sport has ment so much to me. I have seen such a cast of characters.. Hamilton, Mathers, Aebicher, Rissling, Hartley, Parker, Mitch, Matte, Soderstrom, Barber, Bonvie…the list is endless. After thinking about it some more I felt it was time to finally tell the story after 30 some years for myself and for others to hear. I know my story is special and I think everyone that is reading this has their own Hershey Bears story.
My first recollection of the Bears had to be around 1976. My father, Paul Schofield was an avid fan who attended every game religiously. Dad always sat in section behind the net. First blue seat in front of the men’s bathroom on the right. He would go the games with the men from the neighborhood and would always stop at a restaurant for food and spirits after every game. Dad was a chief engineer for AMP Inc. He designed connectors, and some of his accomplishments included connectors for the NASA Gemini Space Missions as well as for international open wheel race cars owned by Parnelli Jones. I give you this background because he was a man of numbers. He loved the stat. He kept score for every game from his seat in a hard case folder and would pass out copies of the current game line-ups for everyone to have and follow along. All rosters were up to date and with scratches and additions as he did this from his work during the day. Every number and move during the game was examined by him and there is no doubt in my mind it was accurate. If Bears goalie Donny Edwards had 15 shots against him in a game and the newspaper or the league had him getting 17 shots, guaranteed there was a call to the league office or to the paper correcting it.
As I was growing up, I saw less and less of him as he would be on the road for his job and when he returned from long trips “by-god-the-Bears” were playing Rochester and he would throw the luggage into the foyer and be off with Mr. Hilbert to the game. Mom had about enough of this and took him aside one day. She said, “Look, you better start taking your son to the games or I am leaving you. That boy needs you and you pay more attention to that team than you do your own son!” Well next thing I knew, I was in the back of the VW Van on my way to see the mighty Hershey Bears.
The games were always very grand to me. The haze of the arena..The rumbling noise as people were filing in for the games..The upstairs cooridor..the railbirds..the Booster club selling hockey magazines..Wimp on the Zam....Mitchell Grant and the Park Arena Organ (his fight music was the best!)...the deep voice of announcer Jack Gingrich... It was all just perfect in every way. Dad often would scare me as he rooted for the home team. I didn’t like when he yelled. I don’t know why being as loud as I am. He would have the hard folder to block shots that would regularly come into the stands. Those slap shots would just come flying. Even in the last days of HPA, I hated being back there, I was always afraid of being hit by a puck. Eventually, I Think he got smart as well as he moved upstairs to sect. 65 to watch the games. He would sit with his folder on the rail and lean over and watch. He would take me to the games, sit with his friends for the first 2 periods and sit with me for the third. I was always looking forward to the third as he would sit with me somewhere upstairs and we would talk about the game and what we both saw.
On Sept 13, 1978, Dad passed away. It was crushing to me. I remember all the neighbors coming to the house and several of them offered to take me to the games on a regular basis. Only one did. Russ Blessing was a friend of my dad's and he would pick me up at 6:30pm for every single game. Never missed one. It was lonely, but I will forever be thankful to him for that. The team raised me pretty much. I’d walk in and be friends with so many people…the ushers, the concession stand workers,..everyone. Then there was local priest of our Parish, Father Daniel Mahoney who knew I loved the Bears. He went down to the Arena and asked the team for a jersey for me. It was very kind of him. But when he came to my house to give it to me, I looked at him and said “Thanks, but this is a replica out of the Pro Shoppe, I want a real one.” That was no easy task back then I’m sure. Looking back it was very selfish of me and Father Mahoney went down to one of the Trenn Boys and pulled me out a Game Worn Away Road Jersey. It was #27 Joe Kowal who was a pretty tough dude. Well that made my day. I still have it, It is framed and it pretty much is the most important thing I have.
As the season started, the Bears and HPA where a way for me to escape the pain of losing Dad. I always would stand on the glass across from the benches during warm-ups and would get autographs. I would always have a program, and pretty much every player would sign the program against the glass and talk to you back then. The glass was much lower back then so it was ideal. You would stand on the boards or seats and the glass ended right around your armpits. Perfect to be close to the players.
I had a favorite player that year, #20 Nelson Burton. Nelson was a fighter. He was the man. I wrote him a letter one game and told him how much of a fan I was. I asked him if he owned a yellow Corvette. Well several weeks passed and one day I got a letter back from him. I was floored! I took it to school and next thing I know….I’m sitting with him when he was scratched, he takes me out to diner, ..I was on cloud nine. Big man on campus with Nelson Burton! I’ll ever forget him for taking me under his wing that season. He moved on to other teams. I saw him a couple of years ago in Maryland where he was a hockey director. He was down a hallway and walking towards me. I froze. My god I haven’t seen him in 30 years. I introduced myself to him. He smiled and we talked. . The conversation was short as I was nervous and not sure what to say. I’m not sure he ever knew what he meant to me.
The seasons went on and I followed the team every year. Sometimes I never had I seat, but I didn’t need one. Every usher and security guard in the place helped me out when I was young. During my late teenage years, I eventually moved down to sit with the boys in sect. 25. I sat right behind Terry and man there was not a better seat in the house.
The Cup in 1980 was the ultimate. I remember watching JD Mathers jump up and down in the broadcaster’s booth. I watched everyone in the building celebrate when we won and I didn’t know how to react. I just watched from the upper section. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t sad…I just watched alone upstairs. Since then, HersheyPark Arena has always been my church and the Bears my religion. Whenever I am there for my son’s games, I go up to section 65 and turn down Dad’s seat so he can watch the games. Sometimes I sit down and just take in the Old Barn as she is quiet now. She roars no more. And that my friends… is how it all started.
Rinse Lather and Repeat. Here we go this weekend for our Bears. Word has it that it’s a totally different team and different feel, unlike last season. I’m hearing that people are happy. Can’t tell you how many people have said that word about what wasn’t present in the locker room or bench last season. It wasn’t injuries or call ups that hurt last year’s team. The two out the door the quickest are prime suspects in my opinion…..BearFan always knocked Captain Boyd Kane for taking bad penalties last year but he was clear and honest on last Mondays barn that he gets caught up and knows when he crosses the line. I love Boyd Kane as our captain. I think he is HBHOF worthy….Lots of good articles in the old school paper yesterday about the Bears. I’m looking forward tho this season. Gobears.
Hearing from a good source, that the NHL lockout has to be settled by November 1st. If it’s not settled by November 1st then NBC can pull out of their contract and the owners don’t want that. My money is on NBC putting this back together. I get that the players are angry and rightfully so. Man I’m hoping. I’m starting to get Leaf withdrawal.
On Monday’s TOBHS one of our guests will be Bears Tender Braden Holtby. It should be a great show. Also, we have stickers for your car. Email us your address and how many you want and we will send out for free.
I’m getting one of these shirts for Carter…I think they are cool... http://digitaldudz.com/index.php
Looking forward to seeing Argo maybe soon. Heard it’s great. Also just saw the new Terantino trailer. Looks awesome. I love Quinton and having Christopher Waltz in put it over the top! http://unchainedmovie.com/ New Sharktank tonight!
CP on the road in Hatfield this weekend. Undefeated are the Vipers in DVHL. Check local listing for times of broadcast.
Have a good weekend everybody.
Pretty depressing day to see the Headline, “NHL announces cancellation of 2012-13 regular season schedule through October 24.” Gotta say that I hope that she gets settled. I keep thinking back to 2004. That was a tough winter with no hockey. Imagine if you didn’t live in Hershey or a town without a minor league club. Life is tough enough and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Hope it gets worked out. I’m not so sure tho. The players are pretty mad and it seems like it all about the owners banging on their current contracts. I see NBC stepping up soon to put this thing together as the NHL is the only League on the network. It is interesting to see the announcement of the KHL being broadcasted in ESPN. That’s a nice shot at Bettman for sure. I really don’t recall ever seeing a hockey highlight on SPN last season. I’m sure they have, but I can’t say can I recall ever seeing one.
On Monday’s TOBHS, we are looking at talking to Bears Head Coach Mark French and Last season’s captain Boyd Kane. Should be great show after a weekend of exhibition hockey at Giant Center.
I’m really starting to to love Morning Joe on MSNBC and I don’t know why. I used to love watching Squawk Box or Imus…but Morning Joe has a real comfort level to it for me. Not to mention its title sponsor is Starbucks!
Twitter from TSN and Barn regular Bob McKenzie saying he was going out to party w the The Tragically Hip this week as they released a new album out. It’s pretty solid with tons of emotion. Touring states in November. Also, pretty bummed to hear Foo Fighters taking a break.
JD Mather’s sent me his picks for the Hershey HOF as I put him on the spot on last Mondays show. His choices: His father, Red Henry, Jeanot Gilbert, Ralph Keller, Willie Marshall, Mike Nykoluk and Tim Tookey. He goes on to say that Barry Ashbee, Dunc Fischer and Arnie Kullman are next in line. While I like his list, I don’t really have a reference outside of the numbers like most of do. I’m thinking in the first round there might have to be a couple of modern era HPA and Giant Center players added to make it relevant for the current BearFan.
Carter (#19) did great last weekend. He is a stud. 2A in Ducks game. Plays NL game v Montgomery on Sat. (tix still avail at the door) and then on the bus to the Steel Ice Centre for the first League game v Bethlehem.
Isn’t it funny how Gretzky gets in hot water for the “I’m just visiting Seattle” incident to throwing out the first pitch at a Blue Jays game and then predicting a lockout settle date of January 1. Now folks, that’s spin control!!
Love Reading Royals Head Coach Larry Courville. When he was the hockey director in Lancaster he was so personable and approachable... He was on the ice for every clinic and every kid loved him. Hope he succeeds up the coaching ladder. Can't imagine he won't!
Shark Tank tonight. Don’t for get to DVR it. Go see the movie Looper!
When I read that Wayne Gretzky toured the the Seattle Rink to prospect with the owners of the Edmonton Oilers, my heart sunk for every oiler fan. I couldnt imagine what that felt like. The iconic face of hockey and the oilers....looking into another rink for the team. ugh.
On TOBHS on Monday we will be joined by JD Mathers, former voice of the Bears and son of Frank and also Nipsey from the X will call in. Should be fun show for sure. We tape every monday at high noon and if you would like to call in between 12n-1p..give us a shout at 540-0580. Call us with questions and comments or shoot us an email from the main page.
Gotta say, this corner is pretty excited my son Carter who playing for the Capital City Vipers Bantam A club this season. He is off to a great start on a new team in a new organization. It's like a light switch went off w him and I'm pretty proud to be there every game. He is playing really well. Non league game this weekend in Delaware v The Ducks at The Pond.
My Favorite show Shark Tank is on ABC tonight. I love Kevin and Cuban. Im done with Storage Wars. Finally, Don't forget to pray to Tim Horton today that this lockout gets resolved! Have a great weekend! TGIF!