Since arriving on the local sports reporting scene in 1991, I have spent most of my winters covering basketball and wrestling.
I knew nothing about wrestling in 1991-92 when I began covering the sport for The Bristol Press. I was a stringer back then and took whatever assignments I could get, including writing a feature about (are you ready for this) evening gowns.
I dutifully immersed myself into wrestling, a sport that few writers relish covering, and received a marvelous education from former Bristol-area coaches Dennis Siegmann and Mike Daniels (Central), Bob Germain (Eastern) and Jerry Daniels (Terryville). I was twice honored by the CIAC wrestling committee as wrestling sports writer of the year, the second award coming after I moved over to New Britain and connected with more great coaches like Jim Day (Berlin), Ed Smith (New Britain) and Pete Sepko (Southington).
In the meantime, I rarely got the chance to cover scholastic hockey. After all, our top towns (ciruclation-wise) of New Britain, Berlin, Plainville and Southington did not have varsity teams, and hockey's epicenter has always been the shoreline.
I had the opportunity to cover Farmington's Division II championship game in 2005. I had occasional chances to see some excellent Newington teams, but I have never been able to really delve into the local scene the way I'd like.
On Saturday, I went over to the Newington Arena for just the second time ever to cover Farmington/Northwest Catholic -- a 5:40 p.m. face-off.
The grandstands were nearly full with many others standing behind the glass. Parents of the student-athletes at both schools were there in force. Athletes from other sports -- most notably members of the outstanding Northwest basketball team -- were on hand to support their classmates.
As the game neared a conclusion, fans from Newington and Wethersfield began arriving for the second game.
The atmosphere was warm (even if the rink area wasn't). The excellent concession stand was doing a brisk business. Farmington played well, scoring six of the first seven goals and holding off a very resolute Northwest team, 7-4.
I enjoyed the game immensely and I hope to cover hockey more often as the winter season winds toward a conclusion.