Sports Business

CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: The family possessed by a Devil

April 30, 2007

Devil worship has overtaken my family.

No, we don't have clandestine meetings where we drink animal blood or anything like that.

We find ourselves engrossed in the world of the National Hockey League and eagerly following the New Jersey Devils, specifically a rookie defenseman by the name of Andy Greene.

This particular Devil was a hockey star at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, the school my daughter Rachel attended. The two became entwined in a romantic relationship that continues today.

By virtue of this three-year love affair, my family has become hockey-loving, or at least Devil-loving-ironic, considering this baseball-basketball-football-bred Hoosier has always hated hockey.

You might be shocked-as I was-to learn that Miami has a nationally recognized hockey program. In Andy's senior year when he was team captain, the school ranked in the top five nationwide all season and lost in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

When Rachel told me stories about her trophy-laden, hockey-playing new boyfriend and how he would probably make the NHL, I was skeptical, thinking this was the wishful thinking of a young woman blinded by love.

As it turns out, I was the one who was deluded. Upon graduation, Andy was, in fact, sought after by two teams and eventually signed by New Jersey, an NHL contender with three Stanley Cups over the last dozen years, the most recent being in 2003.

All of a sudden, things got serious. We were thrilled.

Our bubble deflated some when, after going through a two-week training camp in September, Andy was sent down to Lowell, Mass., where he played for New Jersey's farm team.

But in late February, he was called by the Devils at 4 o'clock one afternoon and told he would be playing in Pittsburgh that night against the Penguins. When he asked how he was supposed to get there, he was told, "We're sending a jet."

Since then, Andy has played in all but one game and has racked up some strong numbers for a rookie defenseman: eight assists and two goals, one of which came last week against Tampa Bay in round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs. On April 22, the Devils won that series in six games and moved on to the second round against Ottawa.

Television, Web and newspaper commentators are saying great things about Andy and how he's already making a significant impact. His coach has been complimentary in the press.

Along the way, I have become a believer, and Rachel has made it easy.

Frustrated with network television's lack of NHL coverage, she purchased NHL Center Ice, a cable service that broadcasts all the league's games. Now she can watch every Devils game.

She's made us all black Tshirts with the Devils' logo on the front and Andy's name and number on the back to wear when we watch the games.

On game days when she calls to tell me what time to come over, she says, "Dad, the puck drops at 7 p.m.," not "the game starts."

We're all hooked. My mother is even watching hockey games. I surprise myself by how fired up I get while watching the games on TV; my girls are constantly telling me to settle down. And, of course, we're all really proud of Andy.

And though this might be sacrilege in Indiana, I have decided hockey is more difficult than the aforementioned sports requiring only a rubber ball, a pair of hands, and maybe a bat and glove. That just doesn't stack up when you're talking about a game played on ice with a puck, ice skates and a stick.

Sorry, but the Devils made me say it.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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