The NHL Winter Classic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2011

Trigger warning: mention of sexual assault

I used to religiously follow the National Hockey League (NHL). Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a super fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mario Lemieux was my idol growing up.

One of my favorite memories was seeing the Penguins play in Winter Classic in 2011 against the Washington Capitals. My brother and I went to the outdoor game together. I owed him a game after he took me to the Major League Baseball All-Star game in Cleveland in 1997. It took me that long to make it up to him.

I continued to follow hockey until my I had kids. Then, priorities shifted. I followed the sport peripherally, but mostly just read about the games after they happened. I’d watch highlights, but rarely watched the whole game.

Last week, an NHL player named Ian Cole made headlines for being accused of sexual assault and grooming a minor.

Before I continue with this, I want to say the point of this isn’t to discuss what Ian Cole is being accused of.

The headlines read, “Former Pittsburgh Penguin Ian Cole accused of sexual assault.”

I was puzzled. Ian Cole? Who was he? He played for the Penguins? When?

I was unnerved by my faulty memory. I couldn’t remember this guy at all. I had no idea what he looked like, what number he wore, what position he played, or when he played for my favorite NHL team.

I read that he played for the Penguins during their back to back Stanley Cup wins.

Once I read that, I became very upset because I recalled that their back to back wins were before my kids were born, and at a time when I watched all of the games and knew all of the players. I could rattle off the numbers they wore, and various other statistics about them.

But I had no idea who Ian Cole was.

Is my memory really that bad?

I was too upset to continue reading about his career with the Penguins.

A few days went by, and this stayed on my mind. I kept trying to find some memory of seeing him play.

Finally, I decided to look up the years the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. I found that I was completely wrong and their back to back wins happened after I had kids. The first one happened in the months following the birth of my triplets. And the second one happened in the months after I had my stroke.

You might think that this gave me comfort, but it concerned me even more. How the fuck did I forget that the Penguins won back to back Stanley Cups? As I said, I still pay attention to the sport, read the recaps and watch the highlights. I always watch when the Stanley Cup is presented to the winning team because I think it’s the best moment in sports.

But, I forgot. I thought they won back to back cups in the years before I got married, in 2009. But, that was wrong. They only won one Stanley Cup in 2009 and then they had the back to back wins in 2016 and 2017.

So, not only did I have no memory of Ian Cole, I had no memory of their back to back Stanley Cup wins.

I made a Facebook post about it. So, clearly I knew about it at the time.

I don’t know what this means for me, but it has really scared me. I’m 43. It feels like I’m 83 most of the time.

I’m trying to do as much as my brain will tolerate to help make new connections. Word games, memory games, reading, studying.

I try to eat well, and exercise as time allows. I stopped drinking and I don’t smoke. I sleep as much as I can for someone who has a full time job and four kids.

I feel like I’m doing everything I can, but it’s not enough.

While this might sound insignificant, I’m shocked I don’t remember this.

In 2017, the day before my stroke, I told my friend I wasn’t going to watch the hockey game and was going to bed because I had a headache. She told me about it later, but I have no memory of it. I don’t remember having a headache that night, I don’t remember telling her about it, and I really don’t remember anything about the hockey game.

All I can do is keep trying to exercise my body and mind. But, the fear of what might be in store for me later in life weighs heavily on me at times. And this was a reminder I didn’t need.