For the first time since we drove out from I-80 to I-5 and made Stockton my new home with my then girlfriend Rachel, we returned back to our hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio for a wedding, some wedding planning of our own, and to visit with our family and friends.
It was an extremely brief visit. We left San Francisco International at 10:55 PST and arrived in Cincinnati around 3:30 PST, but no sleep for us as we went to a Starbucks with my mom at our alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, walked around for a bit and then preceded to head downtown to get our marriage license.
Once we were all done, we went back to my house where I got to see my lovely puppy, T’Kai, an American Eskimo, who was very excited to see us. Dad was working a half day (his new office was my old room) and both my mother and Rachel fell asleep, but for me as I was trying to adjust to the time difference, was just trying to stay up as long as I could, so I worked out and that’s where event #1 of the weekend took place.
Learning the news of Gordie Howe’s passing on a bike was disappointing. I never had the chance to see Gordie play, but he’s one of those guys you hear legends about throughout growing up. He was not only big and skilled, but also physical and tough. They named getting a goal, an assist and a fight the Gordie Howe hat trick for a reason!!
There are few players that played before my day that you just take the word of hockey elders that they were incredible players, and you believe them without hesitation. Gordie was on that very shortlist of legendary players I never got to see, that you just knew were amazing players. Not only that though, Gordie was a real ambassador for the game of hockey. He was a household name even in non-hockey circles.
Rest in peace Mr. Hockey!
After everyone’s nap it was time to head to lunch and there were two places on our list we had to go in our two days in Cincinnati, one of which is Skyline Chili!
For those of you who don’t know, us Cincinnatians love our chili, but it’s Cincy Style chili, which is a meat based chili. Some people love it and some don’t.
I’d literally eat it every day.
The specialty there is called a three-way, which is spaghetti with chili and cheese on top. They also do cheese coney’s which is what Rachel and I love and cannot replicate in California. The other thing we love is a thing called a Chilito, which is chili and cheese wrapped in a tortilla!
After our trip to Skyline, where I knew I ate too much, it was to our own wedding venue to make some decisions on our wedding before heading back home for a cookout with family and friends.
One thing you don’t realize when you’re gone for three years are all the babies and kids that you’ve missed.
My best friend Tony and his wife Sadie have three children amongst them and I lived with two of their three kids, daughter Aoife (pronounced EE-fa…I always tell her that her name is spelled Eeeeeeefa) and son Gavin.
I remember living with both of them when they were just toddlers. Now they were almost as tall as me and when told their age and what grades they were heading into, I was just baffled at where the time went.
Then there was their youngest son, whom I’ve not met until Friday night, Vinny. While I was able to catch up with the older kids, Vinny was really the one I think that made me realize just how this business of hockey works.
You miss weddings (I missed Tony and Sadie’s when we wore the Rough & Ready Islanders jerseys on home ice), you miss spending time with the kids, and you miss births of a new generation.
Vinny along with my friends Eric and Michelle’s son, Landon, just made me feel really bad about what I’ve missed while being away. I’ve always been under the impression that friends aren’t just your friends, they’re an extension of your family.
It continued as well on our Friday night cookout when my former co-host of The Five Minute Major, my radio show at the University of Cincinnati, Jason and his wife Leigha brought over their son Brock (who was just a baby when we moved), now nearly four, and their daughter Evie, who again, was yet another child we met for the first time this weekend, is almost one.
Time passes by so quickly, and while I felt a little upset at how much I’ve missed, I also felt really proud of all of my friends and their families and how exciting it was to see these kids in a new, more mature light.
Saturday was wedding day for my friends Danny and Elizabeth, but it wasn’t for a while, so we went to lunch with my sister Sam, her fiance Kerrie, along with my parents, to Quatman’s Cafe, the best burgers I’ve ever had.
But because I hadn’t had them in so long, and that I ate at In-N-Out twice, I wasn’t sold on just how much better Quatman’s is until I took a bite.
It’s better, by a mile.
However side note, my parents think In-N-Out is gross and greasy, and I admit, I wasn’t a believer in the hype at first when I moved to California, but I’d never call it gross or greasy. I’m quite the fan of the place and think it’s silly to think the way they think.
But hey back to the story:
We decided to swoop into a quick visit with her grandparents, her aunt and her cousin. Her grandparents live in this beautiful house on the west side of the city, it’s an A-framed house that is really big and roomy on the inside with a number of cool features including a spiral staircase. Her grandpa is a photographer and they put on a slideshow of pics from their last couple visits to Germany so while we talked, we had some cool things to look at and potentially alter our plans during our honeymoon to Munich coming up next month.
Then it was back to the house to change, shower and get ready for the wedding. We of course had a blast, got to see one last wedding before ours to see if there were ideas we liked/didn’t like and then we partied the night away with our friends and my parents.
Again, it was another blast of things I’ve missed. My friend Chris and his wife Kelcey (whom I wrote about in the last blog about their wedding) were now expecting a child later this year. My friend Jamie introduced me to his new wife Melissa, yet another wedding I missed. Then there was catching up with old hockey teammates and friends who may not have been recently married or with kids on the way or at the reception, but nonetheless, you miss spending time with them or playing hockey with them.
All in all it was a beautiful wedding, we had a great time, and the newlyweds looked like they had a great time and that’s what really matters.
Finally it was a travel day on Sunday. Our flight was at 9:25 Eastern so we had to be up and leave no later than 7:30 to get to the airport on time. This of course came with little sleep.
Which is great because Rachel got a glimpse and an eventual appreciation for how travel days in the season work. There are times where we won’t get to bed until 2:30, just to be up by 3:30 to get to the airport by 4:00, unload all of our gear into the terminal, check it, then walk through security and be on our plane at 7:30. I continued to tell coworkers here that it’s not a “day off”, in fact, it’s usually more effort and takes more energy from you than a game day does.
So with Rachel now appreciating the work done early in the morning, we got to the Cincinnati airport (which is actually located in Kentucky) and prepared to embark back to SFO. However it was there we learned of the news in Orlando.
I don’t want to get into politics or beliefs, but we can all agree that the loss of nearly 50 lives and over 50 more injured is ridiculous. It hit me hard. Really hard.
When we got back to SFO at 11:00 local time and preceded to sit on the tarmac for another 40 minutes because they didn’t have a gate for us, I read as much as I could about the events that transpired. I scoured Facebook. I have many friends in Florida, and while only one in Orlando (former Ontario broadcaster, now Solar Bears broadcaster Jesse who is fine) my number of friends in Tampa obviously had a big reaction to the events.
I was really proud because a number of them went to donate blood, especially those with AB or O types.
The events turned Sunday into a sad and difficult day for me, and I’m sure you as well.
And while it seems dumb for me to transition from something so serious and sad as a mass shooting to hockey, I say that Sunday’s Game 6 was a way for people to escape again and remember that humans can do something good, and not just do something harmful.
Of course over the weekend the entire hockey season officially came to an end. We learned of the Kelly Cup being awarded to the Allen Americans, who if you remember correctly, I said they wouldn’t win last year.
Now they’ve won back-to-back, the first to do so in the ECHL since the Toledo Storm in 1993-1994. They have won four straight Double-A Hockey titles including two in the old Central Hockey League and two in the ECHL. Can you say dynasty?
Then it was Lake Erie’s turn as they won the Calder Cup on Saturday, sweeping the Hershey Bears and winning the 10th Calder Cup in Cleveland hockey history and first since 1964 when they were the Cleveland Barons.
Then on Sunday, while I was dead asleep due to exhaustion (slept from 3 in the afternoon till 11 at night before waking for a snack and falling back asleep from midnight to 6 a.m.), the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup.
Now I know many of you are Sharks fans, and I know some of you may be hurting today, and for awhile, and I can understand that.
Growing up in and as a Buffalo sports fan, I’m very sympathetic to having your dreams crushed and feeling like your heart has been ripped out. The best piece of advice I can give you is to keep your belief in your team alive, be proud of being there, and hope that the experience of losing will motivate the young core to compete again.
But hey, if you need a couple days of being upset before you reach the acceptance phase go for it. Brett Hull’s skate in the crease and Scott Norwood’s wide right kick are evidence enough that sometimes in the interim, being upset over a bad call or a poor kick before accepting defeat is ok, but you’ll learn to accept the loss and you’ll move on.
And while the Stanley Cup Finals, the NBA Finals and the MLB season can provide a distraction for the “real world” I ask that you still keep the victims, and the family and friends of the victims in Orlando, in your thoughts.
And I guess to bring this full circle, this entire weekend I was thinking about what I wanted to write about. I knew I wanted to write something about going home, because it was the first time in near three years that I was back in that timezone, let alone that city.
I thought to myself through the weekend, what makes a home, well… a home.
Family. Friends. Food. Entertainment. Etc…
Family is so important to me, but my family, Rachel, is with me here in Stockton, and I have met so many great people here in Stockton and to be establishing my roots in this community makes it feel like home too.
And as I’m thinking to myself during all of the above events how I want to write about which town really feels like home (and to be honest, I’m not really sure of the answer to that quite yet), my thoughts kept getting clogged up by the people who won’t be going home again because of a violent act that didn’t need to happen. So instead of being able to answer that question, I was left with other questions.
So I think the moral of the blog, is to live every moment with passion, with friends and with family and enjoy the time you spend with the people you care most about. It can be a wedding that makes you realize how much you love someone. It can be seeing and meeting children for you to realize what you want your purpose to be. It can be a sporting event that can provide you a distraction from the world around you, and even when those sporting events don’t go your way, how proud you can be of the guys that fight for you on the ice, court or field.
And it can also be an act like Sunday’s to make you realize how precious life is and that every moment you have should be spent wisely.
On behalf of the entire organization, our thoughts and prayers go to everyone impacted by the events of Sunday’s attack in Orlando and know that the Heat and the entire 209 is here for you.
I’m closing out all of my blog posts with a jersey or logo in the sports world. I love sports jerseys (I collect them) and I love logos and what goes into making a brand.
You know, Orlando is a truly great town. I’ve got so many memories ranging from when I was a kid heading to Disney World just outside of Orlando. Or when I was a kid how much I wanted to go to Universal Studios just to try and get on a Nickelodeon gameshow or get slimed (doesn’t every child).
So in honor of the victims of that tragedy, I’m going with one of, if not my favorite logos in the ECHL, the Orlando Solar Bears.
The Bears new logo is great because it updates a classic, it’s got a unique feel and color scheme, and essentially, you can kind of figure out the logo even if it didn’t say “Solar Bears”.
Now what a solar bear actually is…I’m not sure, but their mascot Shades is a cool polar bear and the general look of this logo I think is top notch.
When it comes to rebooting a classic brand while updating it to be more modern, I think that the Bears should be applauded and should be the posterchild for how to do that well (take notice future Quebec Nordiques team….if it happens).
And while there were other brands I’d love to feature here, be it Orlando FC (MLS), the Orlando Magic (NBA) or the Orlando Predators (AFL), when it comes to what I love most about that town, the sunshine, the entertainment, the fun, this Solar Bears logo represents it well.
Our hearts are with you Orlando! You aren’t alone as your city goes through this trying time!
Brandon Kisker is the Heat’s Director of Broadcast & Media Relations and will be entering his fourth season as a broadcaster in Stockton and second for the Heat. He yells a lot when excited, but that yelling is genuine, and typically fist pumps when goals are scored or big saves are made. He thinks Rick Jenerette is really top shelf…..and that is where mama hides the cookies. He’s getting married in less than 40 days. Follow him on Twitter @kiskerbc or email him at email@example.com with comments or questions.