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December 2, 2006 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

SECOND THOUGHTS: Family

by Chris Dilks/Columnist

With the Thanksgiving holiday last week, nearly every college hockey web site had their own rendition of things to be thankful for in college hockey. Here at CHN, Avash Kalra took a look at what each team was thankful for. All of them were excellent, and while I could follow suit, one of the ideas of the Second Thoughts column is to take a little different look at the world of college hockey, so I won't.

This annual time of reflection is certainly valuable, but as much as the Thanksgiving holiday is about being thankful for the positive things in one's life, modern day Thanksgiving is also about family. The day before Thanksgiving has almost become its own holiday. It has earned the distinction of busiest travel day of the year, as people all around the country fly or drive to spend the day with their family.

But sometimes family can mean more than just blood relation. The movie Fever Pitch, roughly based on Nick Hornby's great novel, extends the idea of a "summer family" to describe a group of baseball fans that share the experience of following their beloved team. Most serious college hockey fans can relate to this feeling, as they have their own "winter family" that they share the college hockey experience with.

It may sound a bit extreme to refer to a group of people that you have very little personal contact with as family, but if you think about it, it fits. From October to March, fellow fans, arena staff members, and the team are all part of a family. I can't think of anywhere outside of the family setting where you see a group of people join together and collectively share in the joys and the pains of their group.

Fans are willing to do anything they can to defend the honor of their team if anyone speaks ill of them. They get a firsthand look into the lives of their players, as they watch them grow and develop as players and people as they make the transformation from child to man. And while I doubt any player would take a bullet for a fan, they have no problem diving in the way of a piece of hard rubber flying at high speed to protect the emotions of their fans.

Who else but a family member could make you feel so proud, and who else could drive you to such frustration, yet never make you question your love for them? They're the people that you always look forward to seeing. Whether it's the guy who is as colorful as the front cover of the programs that he sells, or the player whose creativity on the ice consistently amazes you, or the fan whose dance routine you never miss, they're all a part of the family.

And every family needs a home to gather at. The arena, be it a palace like Ralph Engelstad Arena or something less, like Ferris State's Ewigleben Ice Arena, is almost as much a second home for fans as it is for players. Delicious smells from the concession stands often waft through the arena like the smell of a home-cooked meal coming from the kitchen. Most longtime fans have their seat, and wouldn't feel comfortable anywhere else. In fact, it makes most people so comfortable that they're more than willing to act in a manner that they'd only act at home, and never in public.

I had a great Thanksgiving holiday last weekend when I traveled home to spend the weekend with my family. It's something that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. But come 5:45 on Saturday night, I'll be standing outside in sub-zero temperatures, waiting for the doors to open so I can go to my other home, and spend the evening with my winter family.

And to have that opportunity, I'm pretty thankful.

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