Editor's Note: As a reminder that today is the last day to enter the Five Reasons You Love Hockey contest. Here's bkblades excellent entry. Don't be shy about entering. No one's judging you. Except for Chemmy. He's always judging you.
I haven't been around PPP as much as I would have liked recently, but that may be a good thing. For you see, this site is an addiction of sorts. One of the few who linger and read the site starting from 2 in the morning, my vampire hours would be missing that fill of Leafs related goodness without this site. Anyway, as a way to show that I can contribute more than just snide remarks and random commentary about how Sergei Berezin was the Greatest Leaf player of All-Time(TM), here's my attempt to explain why I fell in love with hockey.
1. I am Canadian - In 1965, George Grant penned one of the most analyzed and important pieces of Canadian literature in the last century with "Lament for a Nation". In it, Grant essentially argues that Canadian identity is a constant, but losing battle between British and American imperialism. Thus, there really is no such thing as a true Canadian identity. While Grant exaggerates the importance of having such a clear national identity and seemingly ignores the immigrant experience to said nationalism, there is much difficulty in determining what makes a Canadian. Though hardly universal, hockey for me is what being Canadian is all about. An unassuming sport that seems to be fully intertwined only in this country, loving hockey was one of the ways I saw myself as a Canadian. Instantly, I developed a patriotic fervour, an arrogance that hockey is Canada's game, and willingly adopted the stereotype that I am Canadian and I love hockey.
2. "And don't say it'll never happen. Remember that incident with what's her name. Click, click. You know." Back in elementary school, one of the most exciting times for me was when our teacher gave us Scholastic Book Order forms to buy books through school mail. I realize now that that company profited from wide-eyed children like me with overcharged books and iffy educational toys. But hey, I rather spend more on books than Transformers anyway (I gave away my Optimus Prime awhile back, so I'm slightly bitter). One of my most memorable purchases was the Hockey Superstars 1993-1994 photo book written by Paul Romanuk. Not only did I develop an early love for Romanuk (the original WJHC Team Canada voice, bred'ren), hockey photos were how I found other teams and players before the internet. From the various agape mouths, scrunched faces, and other awkward action pictures of hockey, hockey's greatest moments can just as easily be captured on stills. As a visual person who grew up with family who were all creative, seeing hockey played out on photos was magical. It's like I'm actually there! /nerditry
3. I Can't Understand//What Makes a Man - No matter how many statistics exist in hockey, including the newer, advanced metrics that are so necessary to better understand the sport, no stat can truly capture the grit, courage, and yes, the intangibles, exuded by so many hockey players. The ability to block shots, hit players, even the occasional fight, is the difference between a liked player and a legendary one. No other sport in the world celebrates and embraces the lunch-pail player quite like hockey. Often, I get annoyed by the over exuberance and over reverence from fans of such players, especially at the expense of the few sublime superstar athletes that pass by in this city (miss you, Mats). But I can't deny how much awe I am of those players who leave everything on the ice by sheer will and guts, damn the pain. I often muse that there are two men in my life who I look up to and definitively say, "He's a man". One of them is my father. The other? Wendel Clark.
4. Sometimes Your Words Just Hypnotize Me - To this day, I have never seen a NHL hockey game live. Despite being a helpless fan of the Maple Leafs since the early 1990s, never have I set foot inside Maple Leafs Gardens or ACC for a hockey game. I'm not sure if I ever want to at this point. I grew so enamoured with the sights, sounds, and stories of hockey that I don't think a live game will ever match the mystique and aura that other people have built up for me. From the sounds of anticipation when a game is about to start, the low booms when a puck hits the boards to the tales of kids playing hockey on their local ponds, everything about hockey is idyllic.
5. Douglas Robert Gilmour - Certainly not a unique or a particularly inspired choice, but safe to say without Doug Gilmour, my life would be
happier one without the Toronto Maple Leafs. I never grew up with hockey by default. I never personally played hockey, aside from the ball hockey I started a little later in life (Go Wilcox Windows! Yup, my elementary school team name was named after a large window. Sigh). My love for the game wasn't forged by the numerous early morning practices or the incalculable house league games. And even though they passed down violent action movies, Tim Horton's, and wrestling as a child, amongst other joys, my parents never caught onto hockey. No, the singular moment when I devoted myself to the peaks and perils of the Toronto Maple Leafs can be pinpointed to that one show and tell day when my grade two teacher brought forward a newspaper photo of Doug Gilmour. My teacher's favourite player became my favourite player without question. Cards, photos, newspaper articles, I started to breathe in Maple Leafs hockey through Doug Gilmour. Hockey suddenly became such an obsession with me that my aforementioned hockey-illiterate parents still know three names by heart: Wendel Clark, Mats Sundin, and of course, Doug Gilmour. Doug Gilmour first introduced me to the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general, and he did absolutely everything that his gait and ghostly body could do to keep me as a fan forever.