Sunday, April 20, 2014

Adieu Andrea, We Shall Miss You

I received the news tonight that Andrea Gallo lost her battle to stomach cancer Friday morning.

As she would admonish me for even speculating her age, I will just say that Andrea was a long-suffering Blue Blood, a section 334 regular and all-around wonderful woman to be around. A social butterfly, she could - and did - strike up a conversation with anyone and was a terrific person to share the Ranger experience with.

A few years back she had mentioned to me her plans to write a book about the Rangers and the passion they instill, a memoir in the vein of Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch". To the best of my knowledge, the 2012-13 lockout and her illness curtailed those plans before she was able to get much done. I do have a small excerpt, which is actually an excerpt of a letter she wrote to her brother during the '04-05 lockout. I hope, wherever she is, she doesn't mind my sharing it with you as it is a clear window into her - and all of our - adoration for the pure sport of hockey:

To me, there is nothing prettier than a forward receiving a pass, accelerating past a shocked defenseman, picking up speed as the crowd realizes he’s alone! Nothing but open ice and a masked man in front of him. As he skates in, we want to shout “SHOOT!” but the moment is fraught: Will he be hooked from behind by the defenseman laboring to make up his lost ground? Has the shooter been hot lately and whether he shoots left, right, high or low, we know that this sniper will light the lamp? Or is he facing down an Olympian gold medalist, cocky in his world-class prowess?

Those chances come so rarely in a game and yet I hang on, game after game for that thrill. For at that moment, the 18,400 fans at Madison Square Garden are one. Either united by a dazzling goal or deflated by a spectacular save, we rise or sigh in unison. We toss aside our stale popcorn. We issue a deep-throated cheer. Or we drown our dismay in a headless beer. What a release to be one with that crowd.

Consensus is rare in life, yet rife in an athletic arena. While other sports have larger venues housing 50,000 fans or more, our rabid minority embraces its cult status and prefers the intimacy of our self-selected tribe. Yet our tribes wear thirty different insignias. I can loathe the Philadelphia Flyers, but can enjoy deep conversations with their supporters away from our field of battle. Same cult, different gurus.

Hockey is the sport for me, a sun-worshipper who can bask in the warmth of a crowd in the dead of my drab winters. But this season has been dark and cold. I miss entering the arena and taking in the tempting aroma of the hotdogs, slowing rolling over on their greasy grills. I miss my friends, planted like so many bachelors buttons in their rich blue jerseys throughout the Garden. But mostly, I miss watching and waiting for a large man handling a small puck to bring us, breathless, to our feet as one.
Andrea gave much of her time and herself to Ice Hockey in Harlem so if you would like to honour her memory, a small donation to that organization would surely be appreciated.

No comments: