I wasn’t always a hockey fan. One would’ve thought that having a dad who grew up in Buffalo, NY would make me automatically one, but it was just never that big in my house (probably because the Sabres just weren’t/aren’t very good right now so my little kid brain wasn’t interested).
My family is a family that loves watching sports (my dad has always enjoyed hockey), but the one I grew up surrounded by was soccer, particularly the English Premier League. So I don’t really know why hockey was on in my house on that fateful day in 2009. May 10, if Google is to be believed (and I usually do).
May 10, 2009. Game Six. Overtime. Caps vs Penguins. Maybe some of you remember it. The score was tied 4-4 and the Caps had to win to force a Game 7. Six minutes 22 seconds into OT, David Steckel scored to win the game. The crowd went wild.
This is the earliest I can recall watching a hockey game and I was immediately hooked. I hadn’t even watched the entire game. I think I might’ve just watched the third period. But to my 11-year-old heart, the thrill of the crowd and the suspense of the game had me immediately.
So naturally I asked for a David Steckel jersey once it was clear we were turning into a hockey family, as opposed to just a hockey dad.
Now David Steckel isn’t known as a goal scorer, or a passer, or an enforcer. He was just an incredible face-off guy and a hard worker.
A fourth-liner for most of the time I watched, David Steckel should not have scored that goal that night. But he did, and I am eternally grateful for it.
We started going to games the next season and eventually bought Season Tickets.
I would faithfully wear my David Steckel jersey to every game I got to go to (which wasn’t many since I had to share two tickets with my dad and brother), always on the lookout for fellow Steckel fans. Section 407-408 became my second home as often as I could make it.
I fell in love with Mike Knuble along the way, too. His sheer determination to crash the net and get us simple goals born from hard work was inspiring.
Had I not still been devoted to David Steckel and my jersey, I would’ve gotten a Knuble one as well.
Brooks Laich (We miss you!) was my second jersey once my small, kid-sized Steckel one wouldn’t fit anymore. Another guy who was known for grit and determination, Brooks Laich may have had more fans than Steckel, but to me he was mine.
I wore that jersey until it got a rip in it from being worn too much. Kind of like Brooks Laich himself in that way, I suppose.
Jay Beagle is another one, though I lack his jersey. A hardworking, hardnosed grinder who when he scores, we win (seriously- look it up). Watching Jay Beagle skate and play is rewarding because it means the hard worker can reach their potential too.
Now on my third jersey, Tom Wilson received the honors. Hard work, grit, determination yet again.
It’s fun to watch Tom Wilson train wreck someone during the game and smile about it afterwards. Side note- I think it’s a cross between terrifying and thrilling when Tom Wilson smiles- am I the only one?
Tom Wilson, now that he’s toned down the fighting (however fun that is to watch), has become my new David Steckel.
But I’ll never forget that first game I watched. The thrill, the love of the crowd that I could feel even through the TV. Now at college, we no longer have season tickets. I can't go to many games at the Verizon Center. But that's okay.
That first game, it changed my life forever. Thank you to the little guys, the hard workers. While I absolutely adore Ovi, Backstrom, Oshie, Kuznetsov… they already get a ton of love. So here’s to the little guys. Here’s to you, David Steckel.