I remember my first NHL game well. New York Rangers vs. The Minnesota North Stars in 1967.
My older sister and I sat just five rows off the ice. The Rangers beat my home-state North Stars that night but the outcome mattered little. I was hooked.
I would see dozens of games over the next 14 years. Battles with rivals like The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Black Hawks. I saw fights with the Plager brothers from St. Louis and tough nosed defensemen Keith Magnuson from the Hawks.
I saw the 1972 NHL All-Star game with my Dad. It's one of my great sports memories and all time favorite moments with my Dad. Gump Worsley, the North Stars goalie and one of the last goaltenders to play without a mask, was a West All-Star
My favorite player as a kid was a speedy right wing by the name of Bill Goldsworthy. He had a goal scoring routine called the "Goldy Shuffle" which I would imitate every time I scored goal while playing pond hockey behind the house.
Goldsworthy was my favorite North Star but like every other kid who loved hockey at the time, I idolized Bobby Orr of the Bruins. I got a Bruins jersey for my birthday one year and was a member of the Bobby Orr fan club.
Beyond Orr, I saw the stars of the day from Detroit's Gordie Howe to Chicago's Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita to Boston's Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito to Montreal's Ken Dryden all come through town. I saw Red Berensen play before he coached the Michigan Wolverines.
I saw the expansion New York Islanders go from birth to four time Stanley Cup Champions on the shoulders of great players like Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier. They rolled the Stars in the 1981 Finals.
As I grew into an adult, the Stars made it back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1991 only to be taken out by Mario Lemiuex and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Not long after that, Norm Green took the North Stars south to Dallas. It sucked.
My oldest son Will got the bug when he was a toddler. He saw the Lemieux-lead Pens play the Rangers way before he knew the difference between offside and icing.
But because we lived in non-NHL towns for years, he and I both had to settle for minor league hockey--first the Huntington Blizzard and then the Columbus Chill.
The Chill. The team many of us have to thank for turning Columbus into a hockey town.
My sons and I would see many games. We rooted for players like Richard Keyes, Aaron Boh, Rob Schriner and Jeff Salajko.
We'd go to the Fairgrounds Coliseum wondering what crazy stunt we'd see between periods. We were there for the "Last Call" the final Chill game ever.
The Chill's exit was bittersweet of course. Fans hated to see them go, but everyone was well aware something bigger was coming.
The NHL was about to become part of the Maetzold's lives again. The Countdown was on.
I was in Manahattan in June of 1997 when the announcement was made. Columbus would get a franchise. In a bit of personal irony, Minnesota was also awarded a new franchise on the same day. I still have the hats handed out that afternoon.
My youngest son Andrew was with me in the winter of 1998 when I went to the site of what would become Nationwide Arena for the first time. I explained to him by the time he turned 7 he would have an NHL team to root for.
My sons and I were all in the arena on October 7th, 2000 for that first game against the Black Hawks. The ability to bring my sons to NHL games just as my father had done wasn't lost on me.
We'd sit in the upper bowl and scream and yell. The boys became pretty good at getting the "Let's Go Jackets" cheer going. Every win was cherished. Every moment-win or lose--was building a relationship with a great game.
Professionally, the Blue Jackets gave every sports reporter in town an extra bump to the resume. They were now covering "major league" sports. Columbus was no longer a college town, it was a pro-town.
I made it a point to give the Blue Jackets every bit of air-time I could. Despite their woeful results on the ice, this was NHL hockey. While many in town took time to warm up to that, this Minnesota kid was happy to see the game and it's current day stars come to Columbus.
Since day one I would tell people, 'just wait until this town experiences playoff hockey. The plaze on a spring day filled with hockey fans waiting to see a game seven. That will solidify Columbus as a hockey town."
The playoffs came and went quickly in 2009 but they left an impression. My youngest son and I attended game three against the Red Wings. In many ways he was seeing "real" hockey for the first time. He loved it and couldn't wait for more.
Who would have guessed on October 7, 2000 that ten years later both my oldest son and I would be working closely with the Blue Jackets. Me as a broadcaster with Fox Sports Ohio on my way to a job I had coveted since the first puck drop. Will as a video producer for the team.
The kid who used to scream "Let's Go Jackets" from the upper bowl now has his own cubical in the front office.
In our roles covering/working for the team, we've had a chance to sharpen our hockey IQs with some memorable trips north of the border. We've been to Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City. We've seen junior games in London, Ontario and checked out tiny rinks in the middle of nowhere.
Last summer, we spent several memorable hours in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The visit buoyed by the knowledge that our town was preparing to make a little hockey history itself by hosting the 2013 NHL All-Star Game.
Pretty cool. 41 years after my Dad took me to my first NHL All-Star game, I'd finally get the chance to return the favor to my sons.
Well, we know what happened to that.
The NHL lockout is in its 86th day with no real end in sight.
Who loses? The players? The owners?
Answer: the fans and families like ours who despite having never taken a single shift on the ice as anyting more than a pick-up player have grown to love a game that has given us so much.
Not much thought is being given to families like ours. Nor are the families of people who make their livings off the NHL being given a second thought.
Columbus has lost its All Star game. The wait staff at Boston's Pizza and BD's Mongolian Barbeque and the R-Bar has lost thousands in income. The new Hilton waits for hockey fans to spend a weekend.
The new scoreboard at Nationwide Arena has its light on but nobody's home. The Blue Jackets renovated locker room has new paint, new bricks a new stick rack and no players.
There are any number of new Blue Jackets players on the roster who have new homes but no place to go to work.
And the fans, those who remain have no game to share with their sons (or daughters).
The lockout sucks.