Editor's Note: Here's one of the latest entries into our Five Reasons You Love Hockey Contest. If you haven't had a chance to put yours together don't fret because there is lots of time left.
I used to write a lot. Unfortunately, 3 years of nursing school has turned most of my writing time into essays about best practice wound care and excessive use of laxatives on the geriatric population. I digress.
It took me longer than most Canadian boys to get involved in hockey. It wasn't until my family moved into a suburban subdivision where the streets were always lined with boys playing the game that I truly fell in love with the sport. One: I was 9yrs old. Immediately, I began playing. It was winter when we first moved, but my new friends would start their games as soon as school let out. We would play til supper, then again after our meals until it was time to come in for homework and bedtimes. If the lakes were well frozen, we would walk there together, with skates slung over over sticks and sticks slung over our shoulders. The games would last forever. No one really kept score, but in your head, you knew if you were winning and you counted how many goals you slid between Bradley's boot and Matthew's backpack.
The game made heroes and goats of us all on a minute-to-minute basis. Three: On winter's Saturday nights, I was allowed to stay up and watch my heroes. I would lay on the sofa and my dad would sit in his easy chair and we would yell and scream at the screen while eating plain rippled chips and drinking pop. If the Leafs were losing, I would change my position on the sofa with the superstitious belief that my comfort level was somehow related to the performance of the team. Those teams were intent on seeing me suffer. As they fell further and further behind on any given Saturday night, I would move into increasingly more painful positions. If the Leafs scored, I would stay in that position until/unless things began going poorly for the Leafs again. To this day, I feel my technique was primarily responsible for the 1992 and 1993 World Series victories for the Toronto Blue Jays. Again, I digress as those successes never did carry over onto ice.
These innocent beginnings are similar to those of many fans across Canada. Four: Today, we are able to share our love for this game in so many different ways and with so many different people. Leafs fans are an especially unique species. I wasn't born when they last won a Cup, but I am still proud of their tradition. Every year, my dad would buy a couple books about the team and give them to me on Christmas break. I would read each one like a bible. I never got to see a lot of my favorite players even play a game; they lived in the pages of those books. My little corner of the Barilkosphere, Vintage Leafs, is sort of a tribute to those books and my beginnings as a hockey fan. A Leafs fan. A lot of the players depicted are ghosts now. Many of them played only a handful of NHL games and are mostly forgotten. Hopefully, the site will help continue to remind us all of where this game has come from.
It is a beautiful sport. It is a beautiful past. Five: There are hockey-related moments over the years that are a part of who I am. For some of them, I was an active participant - for others, a fan. Still, hockey - and sports in general - shape you. From the earliest teachings of those wonderful volunteer coaches who sacrifice so much, to screaming at Fraser, to wondering if next year will be the year. Hockey somehow takes hold of your core and eventually decides it simply will not let go,