hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 20, 2014

Free offer: Two Bruins tickets up for grabs

By Tom Vartabedian
The Haverhill Gazette

---- — I never win anything. Well, hardly anything.

In a raffle, I once won a gift certificate to a restaurant, if I wanted to travel far for the meal. Another time, I received a couple of movie passes. Woop-de-do!

Oh, yes, let’s not forget the overnight I once received to a motel — a mile from my home. And while we’re at it, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the coffee mug with a pound of coffee included. That one cost me $10 in raffle tickets, which was more than the value of the prize.

So, it came as a big surprise when I received a telephone call from a parade chairman saying I won third prize in the gala drawing this year.

After 20 years of buying raffle tickets, more to support the cause than my own pleasure, I finally struck pay dirt.

“Well, what did I win?”

“Congratulations,” said the caller. “You have won two choice seats to a Boston Bruins game.”

I nearly dropped my teeth. The Bruins? My favorite hockey team? I hit the jackpot.

Good thing it wasn’t second prize. That would have gotten me a free perm at the beauty parlor in town. Fourth prize would have been a bust, too. A season’s lift pass to a ski lodge. I don’t ski.

Fifth prize would have also been a waste. A complimentary membership to the YMCA. Since I already belong and paid up for the coming year, to wait another year before cashing in would have been somewhat brazen.

On the other hand, the Bruins tickets were a treat — more than you could bargain for.

“Forget the car. We’d take the train, enjoy the game, have dinner in the North End, and buy some trinkets for the kids,” my wife volunteered.

All of a sudden, the free tickets were adding up to a bundle. But what the heck! It goes with the prize. “Merry Christmas,” I smiled back.

Some of my friends were envious. What a year for our Stanley Cup finalists! They’re riding the crest in what could be the best team thus far in the NHL. And the Winnipeg Jets were coming to town for an afternoon game.

I was looking forward to it. So was my wife. Of all the Boston teams, she goes overboard with the Bruins. When they lose, so does she —her voice!

And then, fate took its toll. The funeral of a dear friend pre-empted our plans. How could we justifiably shun the memorial service for a hockey game, especially when the family invited me to give a short eulogy at the mercy meal?

After deliberating my predicament, there was no alternative but to unload the tickets. But to whom? My son would have grabbed them and taken his son. But the other children would have taken a fit for being left out.

My son-in-law was a college goalie and an avid fan. He would have jumped at the chance, except for other plans that day. Much as he tried, he failed to find a taker.

And then it hit me. Why not try some of the coaches my boys had in high school? They would surely jump at the tickets.

The search was on. First, one high school coach, then another. Zilch! From there, we tried some of the coaches in the youth hockey ranks.

“I really appreciate what you did for the boys,” I said. “Just to show my appreciation, I have two Bruins tickets for you.”

“Twenty years later?”

I may as well have carried a sign around town. “Free give-away. Two Bruins tickets.”

I polled some friends once who were fervent sports fans. If someone offered them free tickets to the Patriots, would they go?

The rejections were rather surprising. Who would want to travel the distance and pay an exorbitant sum to park, never mind the hassles of getting in and out of Foxboro? And if you happened to sit by some obnoxious fans, misery would have company.

By chance, if you sat in that monsoon that pelted the stadium recently, free tickets or not, you probably would have cursed the high heavens for ever leaving the house.

One of my boys sat through that 2009 blizzard when the Pats defeated the Titans, 59-0. It took a sun lamp at home to thaw him out, two hours after he left the parking lot. What’s more, he would have done it again.

After running out of options, I decided to make one last call. It would be to a former newspaper colleague, who passed the phone off to his son.

Twenty minutes later, they were rapping on my door, brimming with gratitude. The son got to take his girl friend, and I was off to a funeral with peace of mind.

Writer and photographer Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.