The Albany River Rats was an American Hockey League team that existed in New York’s capital region for 20 years. Growing up an Adirondack Red Wings fan, I hated the River Rats who played an hour south on the Northway. The Red Wings and Devils’ affiliates had a heated rivalry that died when the Red Wings packed up shop in 1999.
My feelings toward the Rats softened when I moved to Albany to attend college in 2001. The Wings had been gone for a couple years by then, so the jealous memories of the River Rats 1995 Calder Cup had faded.
I’d say the closest I came to being a Rats’ fan came in 2003 when I attended a game to play broom hockey between periods as part of the newspaper staff. Some friends and I pre-gamed before taking the ice in the then Pepsi Arena. I fell down multiple times, cracking my head and getting a concussion that would go undetected by anyone but me a few days later. That night I stole a t-shirt from Rowdy the River Rat, walked into the side of a dormitory, beat up a cardboard cutout of a Molson girl, and finally hooked up with a girl and threw up in her bathroom. Looking back, I’m pretty lucky I woke up the next day, but my head hurt so bad I wanted to die.
The last time I went to a River Rats game was the season before last. Stepping over a row of seats my pants split from a hole in the knee to above the pocket during the first period. I had to walk around the rest of the night holding my jeans together while my roommate and girlfriend made fun of me. It was a slight bit more traumatic, but at least my head wasn’t pounding.
Why am I telling you these stories? I didn’t attend a ton of River Rats’ games, but they were a small part of my life, for most of my life. Its just not going to be the same if the Rats aren’t in town. Minor league teams become a part of smaller cities like Albany. I guess this is me trying to imagine the landscape of my city a little different. And while a video of a guy in a rat costume shouldn’t make me nostalgic, it kind of does. Don’t go, Rowdy.