Friday, August 14, 2009

Waxing Poetic: My Five

I asked my followers on Twitter today, "Do fans of other sports wax poetic about their sport as much as hockey fans? Baseball, tho that often seems to be more a nostalgic endeavor."

The question came to mind while reading Puck Daddy's on-going series of guest posts "5 Reasons I Love Hockey." What I love is that they're so varied and so personal, and while many are rooted very much in an individual's own history with the sport, just as much love is tied to the game as it is today.

Now, I know plenty of baseball fans who can wax poetic about their game, but I think for many, there's a taint left by the steroid era that leaves many unable to write lustily about the game as it is today, to love it without qualification. There are exceptions, of course, so bear with me, as I know I'm painting in broad strokes here, but I'm not really looking for a hockey vs. baseball thing.

And I know Mr.C longs for the days when football fields weren't high tech or domed and didn't drain all that well and players got caked in mud and wide receivers weren't pampered attention whores. We watch a lot of NFL Films shows, and you can tell they feel the same way. There's something about old school football that's just gritty and real. The modern version feels a bit plastic and overwrought.

But among most hockey fans I know, the purity of the game hasn't really been altered all that much. I mean, you can make arguments about the instigator and shootouts and expansion, but really, when the puck hits the ice... oh, it still makes your heart swell, doesn't it?

My question remains, however. I'd be interested to get an opinion from someone who's a die-hard for another sport, because I genuinely don't know. I subscribe to over 100 hockey blogs and one baseball blog, so clearly my exposure is outrageously lopsided.

But I can tell you with a great deal of certainty that writing about how much we love hockey is practically a hockey-writing genre of its own. I mean, there is plenty else to write about with trades, games, front office shenanigans, Bettman doing whatever he's doing lately, and on and on. But I don't know anybody who writes regularly about hockey who doesn't love to just sit back and reflect on why the sport is as addictive, beautiful, and "in our blood" as much as it is.

For me, I find this happens because sometimes I just can't believe how it's taken over my life and made it better, for the most part. And I get to enjoy every aspect it of it, apart from maybe coaching it. I find creative fulfillment in writing about it, personal and competitive fulfillment (and humility, even though I don't always show it) in playing it, and just straight up enjoyment from watching it.

I dunno. It's just something I'm pondering today. Until I hear an argument otherwise, I'm convinced that hockey is special and hockey people are special in the way they love their game.

Anyway, the five reasons I love hockey:

  1. I love that so many really important things about the game are nearly inexplicable. From the mysteries of team chemistry to how guys can be punching each other in the face and screaming at each other between penalty boxes one minute, and then having a beer after the game. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but it happens and it happens all the time and not only is it NOT detrimental to the game, it's part of why it's so magical.
  2. I love the contrasts. How the tough guys on the ice are almost always the nicest guys off the ice. The grace and the violence. How you can be so fucking sweaty standing in the midst of so much ice.
  3. I love the traditions and rituals. Everything from "the code" to the handshake after a playoff series. From the the octopi in Detroit and the rats in Florida and Section 303 in Nashville. Nobody tells anybody to do that stuff. They just do it because it's part of the experience.
  4. I love hockey people. People who are sincerely passionate about the game, either as fans, writers, or players/coaches at any level, are the nicest, most generous people by and large I've ever met. They also tend to be funny and creative and outspoken (in a good way), all things I love in a person. They're generous with their time and energy and patience, lucky for me as I've been a recipient of that benefit over the past couple of years. It's a debt I cannot repay, but I can work harder at paying it forward.
  5. I love that it's mine. It's like a little love that I carry around with me all the time, and when I'm feeling craptastic or PMSing or played a bad game or in a spat with someone I don't want to be in a spat with, I can pull out that little love and it lifts me up. And it doesn't judge me or expect anything of me or need me to pick up its poop in the yard or feed it. It's just there when I want and need it. I've never been a religious person, but I think the Church of Hockey is as close as I'll ever get to divinity.
Bonus: Fridge's toothless grin. Come on. That's just the cat's pajamas.


"Dave Schultz"  August 14, 2009 at 4:38 PM  

I love this post. You're amazing.

"Dave Schultz"  August 14, 2009 at 4:39 PM  

also, when talking lists of 5, Tao of Steib has the 5 Reasons to Keep Watching the Jays. Not exactly poetic, but that's the story of the Jays.

artandhockey  August 14, 2009 at 8:28 PM  

Somehow, hockey is still 'snowwhite' even though there are a few BIG (so to speak) black sheep in it, too.
Now, I for one, am so lyrical and poetical about hockey because it is so tactile (even from afar ;-), in a way.
The sound of the crrrunch, the slam bang into the boards (ouch), the grace, the speed, the turning on a dime... that and more is hockey for me.
It also has so much in common with Opera and the Bulls :-0,
1. the passion, 2. the drama, 3. the music (that's tongue-n-cheek- LOL), the dance, the emotion, the ambiente, er.. the crowds.
The cowbells, the Oles, The Bravissimos, the Yeahs and screams, etc., the colors, the costumes-jerseys, the audience so prone to swing from 'hottest'
(alas too far away ;-) adulation to deepest disgust and the seat-of-their pants critics (me included, at times).
Am running out of comparables and laudables - hockey just IS ;-) :-).
Must say, though, that I almost prefer AHL, CHL and amateur (so much love and desire there) etc. hockey to the PROFESSIONALS. And now we are off for a week. So keep blogging, I'll be checking in from time to time so's not to loose contact with 'icy love'... NOT THAT Love am not and haven't been a fan of his as an Aeros or soon to visiting Riverman ;-)

Sunshine36616  August 14, 2009 at 10:41 PM  

Great list! I love the part about hockey people (players/fans/etc) are good people. I've been pondering doing the same thing on my blog since apparently Puck Daddy isn't going to ask me to do it on there :p

Mason  August 15, 2009 at 10:08 AM  

As testament to your argument that there's something "about" hockey people, I noticed that for the most part none of your five loves for the game really have much to do with the actual game itself. And holy carp--you didn't even use the word "goalie" or any of its derivatives! But that's what's special: the intangibles beyond the game.

We would be remiss to assume hockey is the only sport with extra intangibles to adore; but like you, I'm the last authority on that matter. Though on a microcosmic scale in comparison to hockey, I have a similar admiration for world soccer. If that kind of thing could exist for "boring" ol' soccer, then I'll posit that anything's possible.

Oh, and you used "taint" and "shenanigans" in the same post. That's got to be good for a free lunch somewhere.

Aubrey  August 15, 2009 at 6:57 PM  

You're absolutely right. No other sport can boast so much poetry about the current game. My dad is also insanely passionate about football, but all of his lyricism is reserved for days gone by.

Love your five :)

Ms. Conduct  August 15, 2009 at 9:39 PM  

Well, the game itself goes without saying. :)

I almost did another 5 of my less heartfelt reasons: Goalies, hot young guys, fighting, hitting, and goalies. But couldn't find anything to write about them that I haven't said 1000 times already.

hipchecks  August 16, 2009 at 12:06 PM  

I am going to miss Fridge in that uniform. :(

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