2003 - 2004
July 21, 2004
Hockey mattered here once upon a time
(Photo Credit: The News & Record)
They were simpler times and not that long ago. We had a sports team in this city that people feared.
Greensboro loved its Monarchs. Winston-Salem hated them. They were great times.
We'd go into the coliseum together, dressed in red, white and blue, waving flags and carrying trumpets, and we'd gather around the frozen stage and sing songs together.
"Welcome to the jungle, watch it bring you to your knees. I want to watch you bleed!"
Such fun times.
We never knew what we'd find in the jungle. Some nights, we'd walk in and the police would be there waiting for one of the players, maybe one of ours, maybe one of theirs. Some nights we'd come in and notice one of our players missing. We'd find out later he'd been slugged by our own coach.
Other nights we'd drive up to the coliseum and wonder why there was so much traffic and then realize it was because we were all going to the same place.
There was a time in this city when hockey mattered. There was a time when the team would announce one of those silly "pack the place" marketing plans, and it would work. We really did pack the place.
Friday nights were reserved for friends, a kind of guys-night-out, and the guys would go to the hockey game. Saturday nights were for fighting, so we'd bring dates. College kids would come, and bikers would come. Sorority girls would show up wearing sweaters and skirts, and country girls would show up wearing jeans and sweatshirts. Employees from the local "girly bars" would come wearing very little at all. And we would gather together around the ice and sip adult beverages and yell out adult slurs and sing adult songs.
"Welcome to the jungle. It gets worse here every day. You learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play!"
Such simple times.
We had rivalries with Charlotte and Roanoke and Raleigh and Hampton Roads, and they'd come to our place and we'd travel to theirs, often in caravans and buses and cars painted in our colors with words on the sides like "Greensboro!" and "Kill!"
The games were on the radio, and you could listen to Bill Wardle describe the action on the ice from a Greensboro point of view, sometimes getting so caught up in the game he'd suddenly yell out "Hit him again!" And afterward he'd interview coach Jeff Brubaker in some of the most memorable conversations ever heard on live radio.
Once when a visiting team arrived at a local hotel, one of the players' rooms was broken into, and the player was tied to his bed while the intruder stole his false teeth. Another time, one of the other owners in the league locked the officials in their locker room between periods with chains and a padlock. When our local Monarchs beat writer, a really good guy by the way, wrote about it in the News & Record, that owner put a hit out on the writer.
Those were good days for Greensboro, days that ended almost as soon as they began. We changed the team name and changed leagues and tried all sorts of ways to keep a team here, but we never recaptured those early times. We can argue all day about what happened and whose fault it was, but the bottom line is those days are over. The jungle is quiet, and all that's left are the stories.
And all of them are true. The most amazing story is that Greensboro was once a hockey town. A bloody good one.
Contact Ed Hardin at 373-7069 or firstname.lastname@example.org