Let’s talk about that closet… you know the closet. That one that houses the jerseys, jackets, t-shirts, caps and other bits of sports merchandise that your significant other doesn’t let you keep with your “regular” clothes. We all have that collection — whether it’s one t-shirt or a hundred jerseys.
I currently have a couple of those closets — I’ve amassed so many jerseys over the years they have to be continued into another room. My first jersey closet collapsed because of the weight of all the jerseys in there. The bar in my second closet was so warped by the time we moved clothes hangers would just slide down to one side. Yes, I have quite the collection.
But it had to start somewhere… and today I’ll start with what I hope will become a regular virtual tour through my jersey closets. We begin with my first jersey.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I was into logos at a very young age, if it had a sports logo on it I wanted it… the exchange between my mother and I whilst walking around the K-Mart at Parkway Mall would typically go like this:
Chris: “Mooooooooom, can I have this Quebec Nordiques mini-stick? It’s only $2.99”
Mom: “But you don’t even like that team!”
Chris: “Yeah, but no one else at school has anything from that team!”
It was a sound argument in my eyes and it still is.
My parents would fulfill my wishes usually at Christmas or on my birthday. Every year I’d get at least something with a sports logo on it. From the brand new all-blue Blue Jays road cap at Christmas ’89, to a pair of Pittsburgh Penguins 1991 Wales Conference Champions pyjamas, or even a deck of Washington Capitals red-white-and-blue playing cards, I loved it all, the more random the better!
But there was one type of cloth that I always asked for but never got year-after-year… a hockey jersey.
Oh that elusive hockey jersey… I must’ve asked for a hockey jersey every other day for four years, and when you’re a kid four years is an eternity, practically half your life.
All that persistence finally paid off that one magical Christmas morning in 1993… gift after gift, like every other year, no jersey was to be found — I had accepted that it just wasn’t going to happen this year. That is until my dad reaches under the tree, pulls out a hidden present and ta-da! There it was! My first hockey jersey… what every Canadian kid dreams of (they even wrote a book about it called the Hockey Sweater, check it out).
So was it the classic jersey of the Toronto Maple Leafs? Montreal Canadiens? Nah, Dad knew too many kids would have that one at school, he knew I had to be the only one to have this one… and he picked the perfect one — so what was my first-ever hockey jersey?
A road Florida Panthers – the new expansion team… good job Dad!
I rocked that jersey, I wore it at least twice a week from the 6th grade well into my junior year of high school. I stopped when another kid in my class also wore a Panthers jersey, I didn’t hate him for it, we actually became good friends and just last year he spent 20 hours on a train just to be a member of my wedding party.
All those years the Panthers were my #2 team, whenever the Leafs were out I was a die-hard Panthers fan… that jersey saw so much daylight during the ’96 cup run and subsequent hot-streak to start the 96-97 season… when John Vanbiesbrouck was picked as the cover boy for NHL 97 guess what game I suddenly had to have?
I wore it in my Grade 7 school photo, I was wearing it when I ran into Don Cherry at a junior hockey game and he signed it; the day after Pavel Bure was traded to the Panthers I rushed out and got BURE 10 stitched over Don’s signature — it was a rush decision, and I now wish I didn’t get it crested but I was the only kid in school with a Pavel Bure Panthers jersey and that’s what counted, right?
After all that love, today the Panthers jersey is hanging in Jersey Closest A (Basketball-Football-Hockey), it still looks as good as new…
Unfortunately that’s all the life this jersey gets these days, I haven’t worn it this century – just hangs there waiting to be moved to another closet one day, constantly being passed over in favour of other jerseys… Hmm, I wonder if it still fits? Oh what the heck, just this one last time!
How about that? It still sorta fits. Gut and all.
So there you have it folks, my first hockey jersey… it was the only one I had until I got a job, after that I was buying a new jersey every week and they never seemed quite as special as this one… maybe I’ll tell their stories one day too.