Jan 062013
 

If you know me, you know that I’m a huge hockey fan. I even used to be a player and a youth hockey coach.

You probably don’t know, unless you are another of my stalkers, that I love the blog written by the awesome Carmi Levy. He wrote a post about the end of the NHL lockout. But… he called us fans sheep. Said we’d return.

I tried to leave a comment over at his blog, but Blogger blogs that won’t let me sign in with my name and url often eat my comment after they refuse to let me sign in. And yes, like many of you, I have problems with WordPress blogs, too. And then we bloggers wonder why people don’t comment as much anymore!

But we’re talking about Carmi and his accusation that I’m a sheep.

I’m not a sheep. Sorry, love. Please don’t call me names; that’s a form of abuse and I’d rather not have to end our relationship over that.

Yes, I used to be a season ticket holder to an NHL team. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that team is the Penguins. The whys behind my no longer being a season ticket holder don’t belong here on the blog. Suffice it to say that with the lockout over, I’m sad again. Sad I won’t get to see the friends I’d made after so many years of sitting in the same seats. I don’t get invited to their parties in the summer, or their tailgates before games. Sad I won’t get to count 27 steps down to find my seats, and sad I won’t be able to mock-complain about how far away I had to go to find popcorn — and sad I won’t be able to appreciate being close to the bathrooms, even though they’re not as close as they’d been at the old Arena, when I’d been able to dart in and out of the bathroom in the time of a TV timeout.

Going to NHL games was, for me, about more than hockey. Those reasons — and more — were what would have kept me going to games now that the lockout’s ended. Those aren’t reasons that find me labelled a sheep, surely! They are my own reasons, personal and unique to me.

As I said, there’s more. It’s the reason WHY I love hockey and why I started going to games in the first place. It’s not because of a sheep-like reason: I don’t love it because everyone else does, or because I’m told to. I love it because I love the passion, the grit. Because I love being part of a game that sees a goaltender take a skate to the throat, have the gash stitched up on the bench, and go back and pull out the win as the new stitches continue to ooze. Only in hockey, and the toughness that the game has taught me has carried me through the past few years.

I love the sounds of skates on ice, so reminiscent of tearing paper. I love the barks the players make as they talk. Pucks on sticks. The ping of a puck ricocheting off the pipes of the goal. Bodies slamming into boards. Glass swaying.

I love the smells of hockey: the Zamboni, a sheet of freshly cut ice. I love the way my nose involuntarily wrinkles when I catch a whiff of gear in need of an airing out. I love the way that it takes more than one shower to get the stink of my gloves out of my palms.

I love the way a hot summer night feels against freshly-showered skin when I’d step out of the ice arena after a game. I love the way my gear bag would cut into my shoulder, the way it would settle onto its side when I dumped it in my trunk as if it was as tired as I was.

I love how it feels to catapult myself over the boards and land on 1/4-inch of steel blade attached to the bottom of my feet. Yep, that’s all that’s in contact with the ice. One quarter inch. I love the wind in my face as I gain speed, I love the way my legs slide out from under each other as I bend sharply, executing crossovers that, if I lose an edge, will send me sliding into the boards, where I’ll land with a thunk and a bark of my own laughter. I love the view through the bars on my face cage.

So, yeah, if I’m given the chance to go see the best of the best, the professional players who make up the NHL, I’ll take it if I can afford it. Watching them reminds me of what I love about the sport.

If that makes me a sheep, well… so be it. Sheer my wool off come spring and turn me into socks, I suppose.

Just be sure to give those socks to a pro so he can wear them under his skates and let me be part of the game again.