Hockey: It’s a Family Thing

April 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

This post is a study in sorrow, an ill-fated, misbegotten letter of woe that even now causes me to cry at the sight of it.

Basically, what happened was I tried to write an essay for Discover Card’s Win A Day With The Stanley Cup sweepstakes, because I love writing and I love hockey.  I slaved over this 1000 word essay about my love for hockey and was (reasonably) proud and confident in my efforts.  Then I discovered I’d read the rules wrong and it had to be under 1000 CHARACTERS.  Including spaces and punctuation.

Absurdities.  So, because I have a blog, and because the internet is a large enough place for my sorrow, here in its entirety is my unusable essay on why I deserve a Day With The Stanley Cup, a.k.a. TWO HOURS with the Cup and you aren’t even allowed to TOUCH the dang thing.  (I read the rest of the rules very carefully.)

Hockey: It’s A Family Thing

“The hockey world is like a big family.”

An NHL radio announcer, whose name I have forgotten, made that statement over ten years ago, when I was first discovering a love for the sport of ice hockey.  I smiled at his words, because if there was anything I had experience with, it was big families.  I have seven siblings, and we all love the world of hockey.  Even our mother and father have grown to love the sport.  You’d think we would be united in our passionate support, but we aren’t. 

United?  Far from it.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are the most loved team in my family.  We live in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and have been watching the AHL Penguins play since they arrived here in the 1999-2000 season.  It seemed natural to become Pittsburgh fans then, and continue cheering for the players as they made their way up in the system.  I am a Penguins fan, as are my brothers Greg (age 19), Pete (13), and my sisters Angela (22), Cathy (16), and Genevieve (10).  My oldest brother Dan is 27, and an Ottawa Senators fan.  (When I began to write this, I actually couldn’t remember what in the world caused a guy from Northeastern PA to become a Sens fan.  I texted Dan and he told me, simply and succinctly, that he wanted to cheer for a team that no one else in this area liked.)  My other sister, Juliana, is 24 and lives out in Michigan with her husband and baby boy.  My brother-in-law is, unfortunately, a Red Wings fan, having lived near Hockeytown his entire life.  When I realized that my sweet little nephew Leo was going to be raised as a Wings fan, I almost wept.  Then I started planning.  Just wait until he hits those rebellious teenage years.  I can’t think of a better way to rebel than to switch from being a Detroit fan to a Pittsburgh fan, and I’ll be sure to encourage him every step of the way.  With the way our family goes, though, he’ll probably rebel his way right into being a fan of the LA Kings or somewhere completely random like that.

Rounding out the odd conglomeration of teams we support are my father and mother, who proudly (and lately, not so proudly) represent the Toronto Maple Leafs.  This strange love came about when my dad discovered years ago that he could get the Leafs AM radio station on his shortwave radio.  They began listening to the Leafs games and Leaf Talk afterwards and have been avid followers ever since.  Such is their great devotion to the team that, in 2004, my father actually went to a Leafs/Flyers playoff game.  In Philadelphia.  He came home unharmed, except for the laryngitis.  He wouldn’t tell my mother what he’d been yelling at the Flyers fans.

Despite this peculiar assortment of NHL teams, we are all united in our simple love for the game.  We are a family that loves winter, and hockey is winter’s sport.  From the freshly groomed ice and flashing skate blades of warm-ups to the sound of the final horn and leaving the arena only to find an inch of snow on our cars, the game is like no other.   There is nothing like the scrape of skates on ice.  Pucks thudding against the dasher.  Boards rattling.  Hockey has it all.  The strength, in the leveling hits and the fights, combined with the grace of the skaters who can stop, reverse, turn, spin, glide on their blades, knifing across the ice.  The puck caroming off the boards, skidding into the net or into the goalies, who’re sprawled on their backs, stomach, knees, throwing each and every limb out any which way just to make the save.  The smack of a slapshot, or the littlest flick of the wrister; a backdoor pass through the crease.  The clank of the puck off the crossbar.  The drop pass in the slot.  Splitting the defenders.  No look passing. (I do not suggest that.)  Overtime goals.  Double overtime in and of itself.   “The name on the front of the jersey”.  Tic-tac-toe plays.  The after-goal hug.  The smell of ice.  At 26, I’ve been a hockey fan for years and years now and there is still nothing like watching that player on your team slam the puck straight into the back of the net.  The red light flares.  Goal horn blares.  Fist pump.  Grin.

When I look back over the years at all the hockey my family has enjoyed together, I always remember the words of that announcer.  Hockey is a family sport and mine just happens to have some differences in opinion on who is the best.  Despite all the passionate debates and hard-fought fantasy seasons, all the taunting and insults and, in my mother’s case, comforting the younger kids when their team lost, we can always agree on two simple things:  Hockey is the greatest sport on earth.  And we all hate the Flyers.

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