Monday, April 25, 2011

Fair-weather fan

It's been let transpire a time or two in the past that I like ice hockey. Truth is I love watching ice hockey more than I ever enjoyed watching any other sport, much to my surprise because I've never played it, I've never met anyone who played it (or even really liked it), I'm not particularly drawn to seeing people getting smashed/slashed/stomped over/ beating the crap out of each other, and I can't even skate. Oh, and I've always despised couch potatoes. And I hate being cold. But so be it. My first, let's call it, exposition to hockey was on 2/13/2009 at the Mariucci Arena, and it was college men's hockey... I was captivated from the drop of the puck to the end, entranced almost, hooked if you catch my drift. In the following 12 months I watched more men's college, women's college, boys' high school, world U-18, men's olympic and professional hockey (mostly NHL but also a little Czech Superliga and KHL).

Even though not every game was good or worthwhile, every kind of hockey has been great to watch by its own merits. High school hockey is full of passion and hope, and anything can happen. U-18 is a blossoming promise and from the few games I attended, a handful of players have been drafted by the NHL and are making their way up the grades. College hockey teams are the oldest of all, bearers or a proud tradition, and olympic hockey, being such a short tournament is like a serious all star game where every second counts. Even women's hockey, usually snubbed for being less physical and less defensive, is more interesting from the tactical point of view (I learned a thing or two by watching women's Gophers) and let the goalies shine like no other player on the ice. If I had to choose one of those as my favorite I wouldn't know which to pick.

But to nix one hockey fix, there's nothing like the NHL. With 30 teams and 82 game seasons (that makes over 1000 60 minute games from September to early April), and 4 best-of-seven playoffs rounds until early June, that's a lot of hockey. Most games are internet and TV broadcasted, and there's abundant written press and blogs, hockey told in many voices and from many points of view, an unstreamlined stream of words that usually disgress, sometimes collide and very seldom align. The world of hockey literature was notoriously hard to locate (a pretty stunning fact taking into account I'm a trained reference librarian) but once I found one end of the twineball everything I had to do was just click around the links and immerse myself in that ocean of information.


Being a fan of the sport is not quite the same as being a fan of one team. Having gotten acquainted with the sport at age 30, I can't boast a family tradition or allegiance of any kind. It's true that I lived in Minnesota, self proclaimed State of Hockey (though if that was left to me to judge I'd give that title to Massachussetts), so I tend to root for teams based there but I'm not particularly loyal to them. Matter of fact, I try not to root for anyone because I feel sometimes that teams don't deserve my support (not that my support means much, but anyway).

What I do is to renew my picks every tournament, every game sometimes. If I like better one team's game I'll be happier if that team wins, but not because any deeper sense of faith or faithfulness. If that team turns its game to crap, then I'm not cheering for them anymore. That probably makes me a fair-weather fan, one of the most despicable creatures in the world of sports, but until there is one very good reason to stick with one team I'll be simply jumping around and enjoying the game from my place, this is, my couch and my laptop.

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