Posted on July 12, 2017
“Here’s where I live – you’ve never heard of it. Trust me.”
I’m not quite sure where you’re reading this blog from, but chances are pretty good that I’ve at least heard of that place. Whether it’s somewhere obvious like Vancouver or New York City, or perhaps a smaller city in South America or Europe, I will more than likely have some general idea of where your city (or at least your country) is on the map.
Growing up in Fredericton meant that whenever I spoke about where I was from with people from abroad, they would more than likely say “where is that?” For example, I’m a member of an auto racing discussion forum and I have a few of them as friends on Facebook, and I’m willing to put money on them never having heard the name “Fredericton” or “New Brunswick” in their lives before knowing me.
So because of this, whenever I hear of a celebrity that has made the rounds in our area, a successful musician that has miraculously chosen to play in our small province, or even a comedian\TV host performing a gig and not really knowing where the hell she was (I’m looking at you, Whoopi Goldberg), it really is quite a surprise when I find out someone famous knows where New Brunswick is – never mind little old Fredericton.
And in a strange round-about way, that makes me think of Street Fighter II.
I know that’s an oddly specific thing to link to a game, but bear with me.
These days, you barely even bat an eye when they release the latest Ultra Hyper Mega Super Street Fighter II Turbo: HD Championship Edition. It’s quite amazing that a variation of a game released 26 years ago came out just a couple months ago on Nintendo’s Switch – that’s five console generations later, for crying out loud!
I was in Baie-Sainte-Anne on one of our regular trips to see family when I finally decided I should give Street Fighter II a chance. I had brought the latest issue of Nintendo Power with me, which featured Guile on the cover, and the resounding opinion about the game was that it was one for the ages, and that games would never be the same again.
I eventually rented it, and really enjoyed it. Each character had their strengths and weaknesses, the graphics were quite nice and of course, the music was incredible. Once you got into the later stages of a single player game and reached the final four – Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison – there was this mysterious allure about them that made it so satisfying to beat them… and wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to play *as* them, somehow? Like, with a Game Genie or something?
It was in the pages of (you guessed it) Nintendo Power that I learned I wouldn’t have to wait long at all for that experience.
I bought into the Street Fighter II Turbo hype. I wasn’t the best player in the world, but by golly, they were going to release it again, and this time, it would be “complete”! Score!!
My good friend Josh ended up getting it that year for Christmas, and although we did have quite a bit of fun with it, it was completely overshadowed by the other game he had gotten that year – Mortal Kombat on Super NES. I didn’t know or even care that the version of MK we played was censored – I just knew that it played smoother, and was way more mature than Turbo.
It would have to take a lot more than playable boss characters to lure me away from my new favourite fighting game…
Around the time both Mortal Kombat II and Super Street Fighter II hit arcades, I developed a fascination for hockey. I played so many hours of street hockey in front of our house in those days, and I was starting to watch NHL games on TV more often. Up until then, my knowledge of professional sports was limited to Major League Baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays, who were on fire in those days.
I was particularly keen on watching Montreal Canadiens games. I stopped short of ever calling myself a Habs fan, but their AHL affiliate was based in my home town. I got to see several games over the years with my father, but I also got to tag along with my friends Michael and Brian across the street. On several occasions after the hockey game was over, we’d go to the mall to plunk down some quarters at the arcade.
Good times were had… for the most part.
The Fredericton Canadiens were the Montreal Canadiens’ “farm team”, which basically meant any player having the intention of playing in the big league had a stint in Fredericton. Because of this, it was an awesome way to see some fantastic hockey players come through the ranks on their way to the NHL.
Guys like Donald Brashear, Patrice Brisebois and Darcy Tucker scored quite a few goals as “Baby Habs”, while Jose Theodore would end up being a pretty popular goaltender in Montreal. It was quite something to turn on Hockey Night in Canada and see those exact same players making an impact on the big stage.
But there was one player whose moves on the ice were on a whole other level than what our little city had ever seen before. As for his moves off the ice, they scored an actress from the biggest show on television at the time.
NHL standout Pavel Bure had incredible speed, an insane amount of skill and scored some big goals in his career. During his time with the Vancouver Canucks, Pavel earned the nickname of “The Russian Rocket”, which was a nod to the original “Rocket”, Montreal Canadiens’ star Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
On the opposite end of the country here in Fredericton, Pavel’s little brother Valeri was turning just as many heads as Pavel was – his nickname came to be “The Russian Pocket Rocket”, a play on the nickname for Maurice Richard’s younger brother, Henri. Whenever he had the puck, you could feel the crowd buzzing, waiting for that next electrifying move that would inevitably end with a puck hitting the back of the net.
He was a rising superstar that was making waves, and I absolutely couldn’t believe that he was playing in *my* home town. How in the world could we ever have gotten this lucky?
Even more baffling was the fact that Bure’s girlfriend at the time lived here in Fredericton with him. Who was his girlfriend, you might ask?
My sister almost literally bumped into her at a local grocery store once – she went to get a quart of milk, turned to walk away, and then almost slammed into poor DJ. They apologized to each other and it gave my sister just enough time to realize it was Candace Cameron, but that was the end of it. The whole family was amazed at her story about the encounter, as funny as that may sound now.
It was just so surreal that someone from Hollywood even knew where Fredericton was, much less called it home (pretty much).
In any case, there was one night where Bure scored a couple goals, including one on a breakaway (the best kind), Donald Brashear got in a fight as he quite often did (which the crowd loved), then yelled something snide to a fan in the seats as he was walking to the dressing room (which got another roar from that section) and the Baby Habs won the game. Afterwards, we hopped in the car and went to Electronic Avenue at the Regent Mall.
Super Street Fighter II had been out for a while by then, and I still hadn’t really given it the time of day. For the longest time, every time I’d go to the arcade there would always be a huge throng of people around it, and I wasn’t interested enough to wait for my turn. Besides, I sucked at it enough that it would probably just be a waste of quarters anyway.
That night after the hockey game though, it was late enough in the day that there was almost nobody playing SSFII. I remember playing a few games against Mike and Brian as T.Hawk and Fei Long before calling it quits. Aside from the new characters and stages, it was still same ol’ Street Fighter, so Mike and I started walking around, looking for something else we could play.
As we turned the corner to go down another aisle of games, I clumsily rolled my ankle and stumbled into the closest cabinet. I was slightly embarrassed, but we both laughed and kept walking.
We stopped at another game, and we noticed that an arcade employee had started following us. We just quickly glanced at him, not thinking too much of it, but the guy said to us: “You kids better keep walking.”
Mike and I were both like… “What? Why? What did we do?”
“I saw you guys earlier and I know what you’re up to. You guys are going around checking the bottoms of the arcades for loose quarters.”
He was basically accusing us of stealing, which was both preposterous and terrifying at the same time – especially if you know me and how much of a goody-good I was growing up. To have this overly ambitious employee accuse me of theft at one of my favorite hangout spots was infuriating, and I didn’t have anything to say to the guy.
Michael – who was two years older than I was and always (mostly) stuck up for me – pretty much laughed in the guy’s face and told him off, and I thought that was the end of it for us and that we’d be banned for life.
“No more Electronic Avenue for me! I’m cooked!”
Luckily, the guy let it go and we didn’t get booted. We just turned around and joined Mike’s older brother, Brian, who was playing Mortal Kombat II with Chris, who was Mike and Brian’s older sister’s boyfriend………. are you following me so far??? 😉
Anyway, I stood there and watched them play in a daze because of what had just happened. What in the world had I done to———-the stumble. When I stumbled into the cabinet, he must’ve thought I was looking for quarters! At least, that’s what I guessed. It made sense in my head.
I still don’t know for sure if that’s what did it, but I never forgot that night, and I would always think about it whenever I went back to Baby Habs games. Even now, looking at old clips of the team in action, I think of that messed-up night I tried Super Street Fighter II for the first time.