I did do a "Five Reasons" post over at my other site. Barry Melrose Rocks. I just can't seem to find the original post, so instead, it looks like I'll just have to copy and paste from my saved Word document. And away we go!
1: There’s always action: (that’s what she said)
I grew up watching the NFL, but one of the things I never liked about football was how there were so many games that ended with the players just walking around while the clock was still running. This was after watching 2 or so hours of guys running and hitting each other, and they just piss away the time walking it off? How annoying! In hockey, when play stops, the clock stops.
In every corner of the rink, there is something worth watching. Unlike some other sports, there is always some sort of action going on. There are no players just standing around twiddling their thumbs (except maybe the refs….heh.) Sure, it’s not so TV friendly, but what a good time.
2: Russians (and other East/Central Europeans)
I melt a little bit almost anytime I hear one of these guys (Czechs, Russians, Ukrainians, you name it) give an interview. True story. I don’t know why, but it happens. Not every exotic accent does this to me—for example, French guys do nothing for me. Maybe it was the schooling in Québec, but I digress. But if a Czech boy in hockey gear starts speaking, I start drooling, even if I cannot understand a word he says. For example, Nikolai Borchevsky (glove tap to Down Goes Brown for finding it:)
3: It’s not basketball
I remember P.E. class as a youngster, which I never liked all that much anyway. Considering I was a youngster in central Vermont, gym class from about mid-November to almost April was indoors. This meant that for the majority of the time, we ended up "playing basketball". I put "playing basketball" in quotes since most of the time wasn’t spent actually playing the game, but instead we were practicing the skills, such as sprints and dribbling drills. I never was all that enthralled by the game to start with, and after spending what seemed like forever trying (and failing) to get my arm at the precise angle for a correctly done lay-up, I hated the game. I still don’t like it at all to this day. Now, I don’t mean to insult anyone who likes the game—it’s just not my thing, to say the least.
But for about two glorious weeks, the janitor would concede that he’d have to wax the floor again anyway, so the gym teacher might as well break out the crappy plastic hockey sticks and let kids scuff the hell out of his floor. Sure, we had to split up into teams and spend most of the class waiting for the teacher to call one team out so I could go in. And yes, we spent more time "practicing skills" than actual game play, but it wasn’t trying to do "the Spider" drill with a basket ball.
4: You can hit people and sometimes get away with it.
This ties into reason #3 a bit. Over my floor hockey career, let’s just say I got more than one penalty. Usually it was high-sticking, because the teacher would insist on no sticks above the knee. But that’s not the point.
Another thing that annoys me in other sports (especially basketball, I find) is how some players can get knocked around and there is no penalty, but other players get breathed on and there is a penalty. Hockey is relatively equal in this respect—everyone’s getting knocked around to some degree.
It takes a level of tenacity and yes, truculence to be a hockey player. Players get throats slit with skate blades, teeth get knocked out, players get bruised and broken, and so on. And yet they still come out. These players still come out for more. You have to have some serious guts to play hockey. That or a team of some serious personal nurses and a crapton of Vicodin.
Yeah, I’m a dork. But dangit if I don’t grin like a moron whenever I see them drive by on the ice. During my second year of university, I lived in a dorm that had a clear view of the ice rink and the place where they’d dump out the Zamboni scrapings. This pile never melted, no matter how hot it got, and provided for many drunken snowball fights year-around (or so I have been told.) I still wonder if you need a license to drive one of those. I wonder if they have decent gas mileage, or if they use diesel. Perhaps they use some sort of off-road blend? I think if I ever drove a Zamboni, I’d have to wear either a cowboy hat or a sombrero, and wave it around while I drove it, just for effect. If I had a Zamboni, I’d aim for things on ice—cones, players, ice girls—and post them on the side as "kills." I’d go to Burger King, even if walking was faster. Style counts, laddies.
It ended up being a 1-0 game, and if I was watching it on TV, I probably would have called it a snoozer. But considering it was the Habs, playing the Bruins, in January, when both teams were around the same place in the standings (sixth and seventh-ish, I think), the crowd was nuts. I especially remember sitting next to a young woman a few years older than I was at the time. I was about 16, so she was probably in her twenties. She would sing along to the clips they played of pop songs in English, talk to her friend in rapid Québec French, and swear at the team in both languages equally. There’s nothing like someone yelling stuff like "tabernakshit!" to get you interested in what was going on.
When she gasped, I would too. When she would sit at the edge of her seat, grabbing onto the bar in front of her, so did I. There were back and forth chants supporting both teams, then saying both teams suck, then one lone guy behind me chanting "Here we go Red Sox, here we go!" as a joke to his buddies. I saw a man in front of me get a talking to from security while another man told the security guard to sit down because "I’m trying to watch the game here!" All in all, it was AWESOME. I haven’t been to any professional-level games in other sports, but I have been to school/university level games. Football was sometimes fun but that was usually because I was already drunk and it was something cheap to do. Rugby came close to hockey, especially with the ability to yell terrible chants ("The ref beats his wife" being a favourite.)
7: The amount of skill
I like to imagine the thought process of making hockey went a little like this:
Inventor 1: Well, let’s knock around a ball for a bit.
Inventor 2: NO! That’s too easy! Let’s put in a target to get the ball into.
Inventor 1: Ok, we’ll kick a ball into a target--
Inventor 2: Still too easy! Let’s make the ball smaller and flat on two sides AND… you can only navigate it with sticks that have a curve on the end.
Inventor 1: Fair enough, so we’ll knock balls into a box. Sounds like a jolly good time.
Inventor 2: Still too easy. What if we put a guy with a bunch of padding in front of the box to make it harder to get the ball in?
Inventor 1: That could be done, I suppose. It sounds fit for a fine summer’s day.
Inventor 2: NO! It’s still not awesome enough. What if we did it in winter, when it’s 40 below zero and the wind’s blowing?
Inventor 1: That sounds…feasible. So the players would run around in the snow?
Inventor 2: NO! Running on the ground is still is too weak! We should do it on ice!
Inventor 1: Running on ice? That sounds rather dangerous, old chum.
Inventor 2: Who said anything about running? Running on ice still isn’t hard enough to do! I propose we tie knives to the soles of our shoes and use the contraptions to glide around the ice.
Inventor 1: Wait just one minute: you are proposing that we play a sport where grown men tie knives to their feet and glide around ice, brandishing sticks while chasing after a small, flattened ball?
Inventor 2: And then we can put some sort of boarding around the edge of the playing area, into which one could smash one’s opponent in pursuit of said ball.
Inventor 1: You must be stark raving mad! Such a game is so…violent! Pugnacious! Belligerent!
Inventor 2: Truculent… (tents fingers in "excellent" pose)
Inventor 2 was Brian Burke’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather (may not be true). But when you think about it, hockey really is tough to play. It’s tough to maintain—you have to have a playing surface, specialized footwear, all sorts of gear, and so on. You aren’t just moving a ball round, but you have to do something that most humans don’t practice every day. How often do you skate versus walk or run? It’s like doing two sports at once.
While on the ice, a player has to make plays in his/her head while maintaining skating while looking out for an attacking player while avoiding injury. It’s a lot to think about at once, and certainly not something I can do any day I want. Besides, there’s also the whole "brandishing a large stick with razor sharp blades on your feet."
8: The language of it.
I love the expressions that come from hockey. It all sounds exciting even if you don’t know what it means (except maybe for "five for fighting", since it’s been hijacked by one of the lamest and least fierce people ever. But in that case, "five for fighting" at least has "fighting" in it. )
Hat trick, riding the pine, skate in the crease, through the five-hole, "distinct kicking motion", over the glass, two man advantage, 3 on 5, plus/minus, game misconduct, butt-ending, spearing. Yes, I realize all these sound like moves you’d see in a really ambitious porn movie, but that’s one reason I love them. I can’t help it—I love puns, especially when they sound kinda dirty.