Username Post: The Old School Code - Part 2        (Topic#549650)
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12-04-17 10:52 PM - Post#1707493    

The Old School Code
Memoirs of a Hockey Fight Collector

Part 2 - Just like Christmas...each and every time.

While I was in the military, there was someone in my unit who was a fellow hockey fan. He was from Binghampton, New York. A Kevin Dineen fan who followed the Binghampton Whalers. He had a subscription to The Hockey News sent to where we were stationed and he let me borrow it from time to time. One day I was reading it and I discovered the classified section near the back of this publication. There were ads for hockey fight tapes. Some guys were advertising over 120 hours of fight footage. Holy Shit! It was like I had hit the lottery. I couldn't believe it. That many hours of fight footage? How was that possible? I started to write or call them to get my collection started.

Many of these guys would send you complete fight lists of each fight on each respective tape. I'd pour over the lists and find many of the fights I had seen or heard about had been preserved by these guys. There were many more that I never new they had fought. Familiar names, Gillies, Tiger Williams, Fotiu, Plett, Nystrom, Playfair, Nilan and many more would jump out of those lists. Bench clearing brawls! I had this fascinating with wanting to see any bench clearing brawl back then. Some of them would put photos of the fighters they clipped from the news on the lists to promote them. They had season tapes, specialty tapes such as Bench Clearing Brawls or the Bloodiest fights and Knock Outs. Some guys had team tapes and some had a couple of player tapes.

They were a bit pricey back then. One guy was selling them for $40 per tape with a 2 tape minimum per order. $40 in 1986 money. I ran that through an inflation converter and came up with a total of $89 per tape by 2017 inflation standards. Could you imagine paying $89 per tape/DVD today? By comparison, today you can see them listed for $5 to $8 per DVD on Ebay. The market today is not what it was but we'll get to that later. There was no such thing as YouTube back in 1986. There was no Ebay. These handful of guys had the market cornered so prices ran high back then. But then again so didn't prices for VCR's and blank tapes. And yes the hockey fans loved the fights so there was a demand to see this stuff. Working on military pay, and we didn't get paid a lot on an enlisted man's salary, I had to be selective in what I chose and how many I chose. I would have liked to have ordered every one, but with the costs back then, that would have run high. I had to live a life too. Pay for a life. So I got what I could afford and save up to send another order any chance I could get.

I'd send them a money order and wait about 2 to 3 weeks for them to arrive. The anticipation for those first few would kill me. I couldn't wait to see this stuff. It was just like Christmas. Over time when you become an adult, looking forward to something that much seems to fade. Yeah sure, that will be fun when it happens....whatever. When you get older that excitement of waiting for things fades. When you're a kid, you can't wait until Christmas, you just keep counting down the days. Thinking about it as the day draws near. Well it wasn't quite to that extent....but I'd sit there and hope that package arrived that day. Coming home from work or college hoping that package was there waiting for me on the doorstep. When it didn't, it was a bit of a let down. But when it did, it was awesome! Like a rush every time. When am I going to get a chance to sit down and watch these? I couldn't wait to watch them.

The first time you watch a new fight tape is awesome. Seeing these wars between these ice gladiators, the bench clears or the toe to toe slugfests. I'd be particularly be interested in the battles between the enforcers. Who beat who? How well did this guy did against that guy? You start to think who the mythical heavyweight champ might be. You sit there and judge who won this fight and who won that fight. You start to develop your own rating system in your head as you watch these. What's funny is that I was not alone in doing this. There were a bunch of guys getting into this hobby all across North America doing the same thing. A lot of us who got into this hobby approached it this way. Constructing this fantasy world in our heads with regard to ice pugilism. I could go through an order of 5 or 6 fight tapes pretty quickly. I'd watch them at least twice and I'd want to see more. Pouring over the lists, I'd want to see more. So that's how it started, like an addiction, I needed to see every fight out there. It was exactly like an addiction. You see a fight on a list that jumps out, I need to get that tape just to get that fight.

Sometimes with the lists you'd predict in your head how the fight would go before you got the tape or had a chance to watch it. There would be some anticipation building for when you actually did get the tape. Sometimes over the years I'd get tapes with no lists and you never knew what would come up with a fight next. That was fun too as there would be some unexpected surprises on some of those tapes. When a fight would pop up between two guys who could really go, that would be a rush. If a rare fight popped up, that would be a total rush!

The first fight tape I ordered in 1986 was "Bloodiest Hockey Fights and Knock Outs". The trader promoted that every fight on this tape was either a bloody fight or a knock out. I had a choice to get the 2 hour version or the 3 hour version. I went with the 3 hour one. I also ordered his Bench Clearing Brawl tape. This guy was out of Pittsburgh. I called him several times but never actually spoke to him. I would speak to his sister who would relay our conversation back to him. I assumed that maybe he had a medical problem and was bed ridden. They would have you send in an money order for the tapes made out to his sister. Why they never put a phone near to him, I don't know, but I could hear someone answering her in the background while relaying our conversation. Whomever it was, they made good tapes and they always came through on an order. I got some really good stuff from them all the way up through the end of the 1998-99 season. I also got tapes and became friends with a gentleman out of California. A friendship that lasted for decades.

I started friendships with some of these traders that lasted for many years. In some cases, I knew them in their younger years of collecting, for many years, who would eventually grow old and get out of the hobby. They were from all over North America. Massachusetts, a couple out of New York, Minnesota, California and of course Canada. Good guys every one of them. Normal guys who had real jobs, families and a real life. We just happened to share this passion for this unique hobby. Maybe it was how we were wired or in some weird way sort of like a calling. I know in my case I was drawn to it. It gripped me. But there were many people across North America who shared this passion for hockey fights. We shared this connection in how we were wired for this hobby.

I'd call them and see what they were working on, when their next batch of tapes would be ready, and just talk hockey or hockey fights overall. I really enjoyed our conversations but I was really intrigued in learning about the hobby. How they made their tapes. How they obtained certain footage. I was a student just soaking in whatever I could learn from them. I enjoyed hearing the behind the scenes information about the hobby. I learned from them. I'd rack up the long distance phone bill back then but it was worth it. This is what we did to connect before the internet and hockey fight sites. Writing letters or making calls. My kids have no idea what a long distance call is nowadays and what that could do to your phone bill.

After my collection started to build in numbers, I found that I wanted the tapes made in a certain way. As great as they were, I wasn't completely satisfied with how they were made. I wanted them made my way. They way I''d want to watch them. I started to make my own comps. I'd make the tapes the way I wanted them made based on my expanding library. I would make my own Best Of's of the fights I enjoyed. Best Or's for some of the teams. I started a series that has gone through several revamps over the years of taking all my tough guy and enforcer match up's and placing them in chronological order by the date they happened. A growing historical archive. I titled it the Tough Guy Chronicles. I also made Unsportsmanlike Conduct which was a collection or outside the norm fights. Fights in the stands, fight with fans, fights with refs or coaches. Just some really crazy stuff. I made a DVD called Minor League Legends. A collection of minor league legends who did not have enough footage to support their own lengthy DVD.

It became an obsession to do this . Always updating and revamping as I got new footage. It would be an exercise in frustration too. When I would think I'd be done with a finished product that I could sit back and enjoy, I'd get more footage or even better quality, and I'd be left unsatisfied again knowing it could be improved even more. I always wanted to make my projects as complete as they could be with the best quality possible. I'd want multiple feeds of a fight.

I found the hobby time of making these comps to be therapeutic. A nice escape for a few hours from stress and the real world. I'd drift into this fantasy world of ice gladiators and compiling & crafting their footage into my own work of art. I'd come back into the real world a few hours later more relaxed. That's what a hobby should be...a relaxing escape. I'd make my own best of's, team comp's, specialty tapes and craft them the way I wanted to view them. When I got back home from the military, I had two VCR's. In addition to starting to sink a lot of money VCR's to make sure I had a few in good working condition. I was taping my own games and making my own comps for a few seasons. I wasn't prolific like some of the guys out there. I had two VCR's going taping games. There were guys out there with multiple VCR's and multiple satellite dishes. The dishes back then were huge. Not like this compact dish TV stuff you have today. No if you drove by a house with a dish you knew they had a dish. These things would stick out in a neighborhood. No I had two VCR's recording whatever my cable company was pumping in. NESN, WSBK TV 38, Sports Channel New England and the National feed depending on who had the contract that year........ESPN or Sports Channel. USA Network was done with the NHL by this point.

I was making my own season tapes for a few years until real life caught up with me. I got real busy working and putting myself through college. I just couldn't keep up with it anymore. Its hard work to keep up with taping a season worth of fights. You try to keep up. Some people think all you have to do is push a record button but its much more involved than that. You record the games using your VCR's. They can pile up real quick. and I wasn't doing them at the volume some of these other guys were doing them. That's why I appreciate and value all the work that they did to preserve this footage. You save the local news paper or in my case weekly issues of The Hockey News. I had a subscription for a few years there. I got rid of it due to their anti-fighting stance. You save the box scores for the list of who fought in that game and when they fought. The tapes of the games for any given week can stack up pretty quickly. When you get the time and you grab all the tapes and combine two VCR's to take the fights and put them on a master tape you have going. A lot of fast forwarding or rewinding to find the fights. And I wasn't doing it on a large scale. Some of these guys had multiple satellite dishes and numerous VCR's going. It's not easy when you're also trying to manage a busy lifestyle. As much as I loved this hobby, my real life obligations had to come first.

At one point I started trading. Trading was a great way to increase your collection. I was able to parley my comps into trades for more footage. I had a good quality base library of footage to make good comps. My collection kept growing. It was also a good way to build friendships in the hobby. Two collectors helping each other out and building up friendship and trust.

I kept my contacts and was still able to keep getting footage over the years to keep up with things. I kept getting season sets from the guys I knew. Years became decades of dealing with each other. They'd send me lists or letters letting me know they had new material or I'd call them and catch up. Some guys would get out for whatever reasons, and I would find new tape traders. My collection was getting larger. From hundred's to a thousand hockey fight tapes. In the late 90's I found a hockey fight site called Fried Chicken Hockey Fights on the internet. I was able to find more contacts and get more footage. Some of the guys would put their email addresses up on the site. I'd email them and make trades. Many years and many different VCR's. Over time VCR's could break down and I'd cycle new ones in.

Around the late 90's or very early 2000's I bought my first Panasonic DVD recorder. I ended up buying several to convert my own collection and make my own DVD's comp's. I started to convert all the tapes I had on VHS to DVD. I thought thereby preserving the quality. At the time, DVD was thought of the solution to tapes that degrade with time. Also, when you copy a DVD to DVD you don't lose quality. So when I was making my own compilations, the quality from the source tape would not downgrade to a lesser generation.

I also benefited in other ways with the DVD format. Some of the guys who had converted their tapes to DVD gave me their tapes when they were done. I had picked up a few collections this way. There was one case I drove out to New York to meet a trader from Pennsylvania who was getting rid of his old tapes. I packed the back of my Explorer with all the tapes he was getting rid of. They were in great condition. I was now picking up collections by the hundreds. I'd take these tapes and convert them to DVD format preserving them for my own library.

When I had completed converting mine, I also offered to convert collections for other traders. I didn't charge them a cent. All they had to do was get them to me. They would have been paying through the nose to have them professionally done. My Panasonics were making a good copy. Whatever the quality of the tape was, that was the quality that would be preserved. I had several collectors send me their collections. Some from Canada and some from the other side of the United States. All they had to do was get them to me. In one case, a collector drove a couple of states to drop them off at my house. My collection was now growing into the thousands.

When the New NHL came along, there was a decline in the hobby. I ended up getting a bunch of collections from old school guys who were getting out. They were estate type of sales. I would give them whatever they thought was fair. I knew a lot of these guys over the years. They knew me. They knew I would take care of their work. I wasn't going to sell it. They knew I was still very much into the hobby. They knew I had the passion for the hobby so their collections were going to a good home. In one case, I picked up a very high quality collection of approx. 3000 hockey fight DVD's.

My collection has gone up to an estimated 10,000 hockey fight DVD's give or take a few. I couldn't keep track of it anymore. Maybe its even more than that. I've got stuff from just about every league you can think of. I probably have more than I will be able to watch in my lifetime...but its going to be fun trying to watch everything before the end of my days.

A few years back I started to do research into the digital format. I've started to convert my DVD's to hard drives in MP4 format. I researched all the video formats by taking one fight and putting it on the various formats. I'd also burn them back onto a DVD. At the end of the day, I liked this format. I burn a two hour hockey fight DVD onto a hard drive in about 35 minutes. I can fit about 1000 hockey fight DVD's onto a 4 Terabyte hard drive about the size of a small hardcover book. I just got a newer generation 4 TB hard drive that is about the size of my cell phone.

I stopped watching hockey years ago. It started with the "New NHL". In 2004-05 the NHL had a lock out. Now these labor stoppages hurt the various leagues with fan support. The NHL is no different. The NHL was desperate and they came back with what they thought fans wanted to see. They unveiled it as the "New NHL". It was about the most unwatchable hockey you could ever think to see. I gave it a shot but just couldn't get into it.

They only time I could get into watching it was watching the Bruins beat the Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals in 2011. That Bruins team played a bit of an old school style and they wore down the Canucks where in the 3rd period of Game 7 with the Canucks down, they had no skate legs to come back. They were dead at their time of desperation. The Bruins had beat it out of them with a punishing physical style. It wasn't so much about the fights, as much as it was taking the body like they did. I also enjoyed John Scott playing in the All Star Game as a "fuck you" to the league from the Old School fans who voted him in. Watching him get voted MVP was the last enjoyable moment I've had watching the newer version of hockey.

About 4 years ago I put in a Best of fight DVD someone had sent me for that season. I'm sitting there and watching it and something was different. It just wasn't enjoyable as it once was. It was almost like empty. No passion at all. No I didn't lose my interest in hockey fights...its just the game and how the fights happened have significantly changed. Like they really weren't part of the game anymore; more like they became staged. I can still watch the old footage and enjoy it. I stopped collecting the modern stuff starting a few seasons back after that experience. Guys also stopped making it. The enforcers are gone and the game is much different now.

I put out a post that I was retiring from collecting but I never really retired. I'd get contacted by old friends looking for stuff or telling me they had found stuff. I also had some old friends contact me to get me their collections. I just retired from collecting the newer stuff. I still grab anything old and of good quality that I can. I've also stayed away from dealing with people outside of my circle these days. I've soured due to some of the less ethical traders out there in the hobby. I'm pretty content to be where I'm at. As I said, I've got more footage than I'll be able to watch in my lifetime.

I'm still very much into the hobby these days. I never retired from that. When I get the time, I like to sit back on my couch (usually watching football) with my laptop going. I've really gotten into archiving in the past few years. I take the 2 hour hockey fight DVD's and cut them up into clips and archive them in folders via the season, month and date of the fight. Collecting every possible feed or clip of a fight. I'm archiving everything NHL up through 87-88. Ton's of footage that will all fit into a book sized hard drive. I'm also grabbing hockey fight photo's to add to this to make it a complete of a picture as possible. When I've completed everything up through the 87-88 season I'll move onto the 88-89 through 92-93 seasons.

While I do this, I get relive the old days of the NHL. The old players I grew up watching. Some of the old fights I grew up watching. Every so often I find a rare fight I didn't know I had, and I still very much get a thrill from it. I'm thrilled when I find a rare gem, thrilled when I get a rare feed of a fight or maybe another angle I didn't know was out there. I fall back into a time when I really enjoyed the game and watching the players/fighters who patrolled the ice back then.

There will always be a thrill in this hobby and working with this footage. Now I craft this footage into an archive library where I will create my own projects. I'll create my own player projects with all the different feeds I have. I'll eventually re-craft my Tough Guy Chronicles into a work of art with all the stuff I have. There are times I can lose myself for hours in this hobby. Look up at the time and realize its time to put it aside, real life calls. I'm more relaxed and looking forward to the next time I can lose myself in it again...even if that means its a week away. But I will always be into this hobby until my real retirement comes. In fact I look forward to having that type of time on my hands so I can lose myself in this hobby even more...... and then until the end of my days...even if I end up being one of the last ones left. I still heed its calling. As much as the current game drives me away, there is enough footage from the older times to keep me interested and involved.

I can't say "Gone are the days when I used to wait for a package to arrive". No that hasn't happened just yet. Its just not as frequent as it used to be. No there are still a few times a year I'll get boxes of tapes sent to my house containing someone's entire collection. Multiple boxes loaded with the old tapes from the days gone by. And you know what? Even to this day....its still just like Christmas each and every time I dive into them.
"So happy I decided to become a Seahawks fan."

Kanrok quitting on the Bears November 2016

the fightguy42
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12-07-17 12:18 PM - Post#1707589    

    In response to TGR32

Good read so far ron and i'm only on part 2. I believe i am the last one still making season fight dvds.

The one thing you know after talking with a friend of mine i don't argee with you on and that's the dvd to dvd copies.

Until a few months ago i wasn't alerted to as they are called the P2P copies but i know now.

I got a few off you over the years we've been trading and i didn't care n still don't cause i was pulling off the fights i need for projects and never paid attention if they were P2P copies.

Like i was saying a few months ago my buddy told me when i gave him a game it was dvd to dvd and was gonna search for a copy that wasn't P2P. I never took notice before and when i was on the phone with him he said look and you can see the the differance and i did take notice. He told me it compresses the quality so lately when i find a game like that in my collection i try and look for an exact copy and i have found a few.

You know i wrote on here months ago and i'm still pissed at that guy paul(oldtimebruin4) cause i never got an exact copy of the bruins frozen in time dvd from him just a P2P copy. That was from our first trade back in january and he never told me upfront he didn't make his copies with a computer or a duplicator machine like everyone mostly does now a days.

I have alerted people i deal with about him still to this day cause he's a real jerkoff and i hope he reads this!!!

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12-09-17 12:32 PM - Post#1707645    

    In response to the fightguy42

Ron, you have always been incredibly generous to me and never asked for a thing, even though i was expecting it all i had to do is ask. maybe it's the camaraderie of being ex-cops (although i think last time we spoke we were still on) but you are truly one of, if not, the top guys in the business (shout out to Dan A) and i just want to let you know how much it is appreciated.
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12-10-17 04:51 PM - Post#1707678    

    In response to daveh8

  • daveh8 Said:
Ron, you have always been incredibly generous to me and never asked for a thing, even though i was expecting it all i had to do is ask. maybe it's the camaraderie of being ex-cops (although i think last time we spoke we were still on) but you are truly one of, if not, the top guys in the business (shout out to Dan A) and i just want to let you know how much it is appreciated.

Thank you my friend!
"So happy I decided to become a Seahawks fan."

Kanrok quitting on the Bears November 2016

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01-01-18 02:51 PM - Post#1708329    

    In response to TGR32

I can only hope that the Smithsonian calls you one day. Thanks.
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