There weren’t a shortage of laughs, smiles or stories from the days of Gordie Howe to those of Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom as the Fox Sports Detroit charter bus carried a group of Red Wings season ticket holders from Joe Louis Arena to Nationwide Arena Tuesday to watch the Red Wings battle the Blue Jackets.
“Some people choose to spend their time golfing,” Grosse Pointe resident Tom Rusinow said with a smile. “I’ve spent my time watching the Red Wings and the Pistons and the Tigers and I have no regrets.”
The only thing Rusinow would have regretted was not purchasing his first season tickets 49 years ago.
“I had my first summer and job and I made a fair amount of money and I decided that what I wanted most was season tickets to the Detroit Red Wings,” Rusinow explained. “I drove down and they were $6 a piece and I think there were 60 games, so 30 times six times two.”
Rusinow will celebrate 50 years of being a ticket holder in 2015, and still gets a glint of sheer joy in his eyes as he recalls watching Gordie Howe glide across the ice.
“Sport is like art, it’s not just competition, it’s an art form,” Rusinow explained. “And once in a while men have risen beyond the competitive sport into making it an art and Lidstrom is one, and Yzerman is another and Gordie Howe is probably the greatest artist ever. He could do things that no one’s ever done again.”
Rusinow still enjoys attending as many Wings games as possible, and made the trip to Columbus with his cousin. The two men joined 43 other ticket holders on the four-hour trek to the home of the Blue Jackets, enjoying Miracle and a replay of the 2013 Alumni Showdown while snacking on their lunches that had been craftily arranged in a red hockey helmet.
But nothing is perfect.
As the bus stopped along Nationwide Arena, there was a slight mishap as the front door was jammed closed. Nothing could ruin the guests’ moods, though, as they received an extra dose of entertainment watching the bus driver climb out the roof’s emergency exit window and lower event host Morgan Adams to the ground.
“To see the bus driver climb through the roof of the bus, and then couldn’t get back down off the bus so Morgan went up, that was awesome,” said Tom Buechler, who has been a season ticket holder for 26 years. “What a team effort.”
“I told her, I shook her hand I said, ‘That was a class act,’” Battle Creek resident Mark Nichols said, laughing.
After a flawless and enjoyable drive to Columbus, it was a small hiccup that was quickly solved by quick-thinking bus driver Darwin Harris.
“I used to drive school buses so I know all the different exits and then I started driving so you learn good habits and they basically roll over so you use them every day,” Harris explained. “So that was the first thing I thought of, it just brought back memories from driving the school bus, I just jumped out the top. I don’t know, you only live once, right?”
The season ticket holders couldn’t agree more, and erupted into a loud applause as the door was swiftly opened from the outside and they spilled into Nationwide Arena.
After enjoying dinner, the guests cheered on their beloved Wings, marveled at one vendor’s specialty of bacon on a stick and spent time with both new friends and old, or those who mattered to them most.
Despite Detroit’s loss, the Columbus trip and experience was something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
“I gotta say, the Red Wings organization is one of the classiest, it has to be, in the NHL,” Beuchler said. “I’ve got nieces back in North Dakota that don’t know anything about hockey and they love the Red Wings for some reason, I don’t know why. But the Ilitch family has done amazing things for the city of Detroit and it’s a great organization. This trip is proof of that.”
Nichols couldn’t agree more.
“Life is about remembering the good things in life, and these moments, that’s what that’s about, good things in life,” said Nichols. “Life is short.”
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea