HE SETTLED BACK in Row G Seat 16 on the north side of the Salt Palace arena, as is his custom. He had already stood just off the rink during his team's warmups and had then gone to his Salt Palace office, as is also his custom; and when he left the office for his seat, he made sure to leave through the same door he had entered.
As owner of the Salt Lake Golden Eagles hockey club, Art Teece does his bit for victory."When you've been in sports as long as I have," said Teece, "of course you're superstitious."
He was wearing blue pants, a red tie and a white shirt not because he's a patriotic American but because red and white are two of the Eagles' colors and he always makes sure to wear at least one color of the team's uniform.
Since Wednesday night was the opening of the playoffs the Eagles against the Peoria Rivermen Teece elected to cover two colors.
Being a conscientiously superstitious owner can't be scoffed at when you consider that during the Teece Era, which began in 1974-75, the Eagles have qualified for the playoffs 12 times in 14 years and they've gone on to win the championship four times.
Teece's Eagles won the Adams Cup in the Central Hockey League in 1975, 1980 and 1981 and won the International League's Turner Cup last season.
Ask this hockey owner for playoff memories and you can be there awhile. He's seen the Eagles through well more than 100 playoff games, including 50-plus in the Salt Palace from the vantage point of Row G Seat 16.
As Game One of the 1988 playoffs began last night, no sooner did Teece begin to reflect on where the Eagles have gone in playoffs past than he was given pause to ponder where they might go in their current quest.
Eight seconds into the game, Theoren Fleury, the 5-foot-5 center who just joined the Eagles from junior hockey, scored on a slap shot.
"Gosh darn," said Teece.
He commented on Fleury.
"He's a goer. He's going to be another Doug Palazzarri. The only thing against him is his size. If some 6-2, 220-pounder throws a block on him he could wind up in the second row of seats . . . but I don't think they can catch him."
Then he commented on some wisdom Jack Evans told him when Evans was coaching the Eagles.
"He always said that 70 percent of the time the team that scores the first goal of the game goes on to win the game," said Teece.
Then he commented on this Eagle team that rounded into form late in the regular season, winning 22 of its final 35 games.
"This is probably the most talented team I mean young talent we've had here in eight or nine years," said Teece. "We've got the most NHL potential we've had in some time.
"I've got a feeling about this team," he continued. "I think the youngsters have the talent and they have the desire. I think we're going to win it all."
He couldn't remember having that feeling prior to the capturing of those other four Cups.
He didn't have a championship feeling about last year's Eagles who shocked the IHL by winning the Turner Cup until the eve of the sixth game of the title series against Muskegon.
The Eagles, who led three games to two in the best-of-seven series with the final two games in Muskegon, were riding a bus to Muskegon the day before Game Six when the bus blew a tire and had to make a lengthy pit stop in a remote part of Minnesota.
The players didn't have any food, or much rest, and still came into Muskegon fired up and positive.
"I thought right then, `This team can do it,' " said Teece. "And what I remember the most was the ease with which we wrapped it up in Game Six."
That's a favorite memory.
But the owner's most favorite memory of all is also the oldest. The scene was the Salt Palace in 1975, with Game Seven of the Adams Cup championship series playing to a full house. Dallas and Salt Lake were tied as the game stretched into a third sudden-death overtime when Eagles forward Gary Holt slipped past the Dallas defense, which included Gary's brother Randy, and scored the winning goal.
"A photographer from the Deseret News captured the drama of that moment," said Teece. "The picture showed Randy kneeling, his head bowed, a picture of pure dejection, and Gary had both his arms raised and was being mobbed by his teammates."
As far as Teece remembers, he had followed all his superstitions that night, and, as last night again illustrated, he hasn't chosen to ignore them since. You don't mess with a proven formula, particularly when the playoffs begin. And it also doesn't hurt to remember what Jack Evans said about scoring the first goal. Thanks to Fleury's early flurry, the Eagles went on to a 4-3 win last night making their red-and-white owner look good all the way around.