Sunday, January 17, 2016

I Am Not A Hockey Fan

Little kids playing hockey. (MorgueFile Photo)
Hi everyone! This next post is a bit different than my usual. It's more of an essay style. The other night, I went to a little hockey game in my community, and it had a profound effect on me. I wanted to share my feelings about the night with you.

First of all, I am not a hockey fan. Never have been. I don't care for the frigid arena where you freeze your buns off, in order to watch.  
The puck moves so fast, that I can't even follow it. The sport is all about being quick, noisy and slick. I am none of those things.  I'd really rather be reading a book, or taking a nature walk. Almost anything but watching a hockey game. But  regardless, tonight, here I am, at a hockey game.

The kids are playing: pee wee level. I have come to see this team because some of the students are in my class. As my husband and I walk in to our seats, one of the boys waves at me from the ice. I recognize him right away, because he had told me to look out for his red helmet. 
Youth playing hockey. (Pixaby photo)
Like I said, I am not a hockey fan. I was forced to listen to it on the radio, by a father who was a loyal Calgary Flames fan. I even pretended to like a random team, just to fit in, and have a way to connect with my Dad. It's a sport I have always pretended to like, in order to appease the men in my life. But it was all a pretense, a social nicety. 

The goalie on the red team is down, struck by an opposing team member. All the players, red and yellow, wait in anticipation to see if he is okay. The coach shuffles out to check on this fallen heap on the ice. He stands. All the players bang their sticks on the ice, in unison. Respect for their fallen comrade. It is intensely moving. 
In Canada, hockey is almost a national religion. (Photo from Pixaby)
I have never been a genuine hockey fan. But I live in a country where hockey might be called the national religion. Every year, our national broadcaster chooses the most "hockey-crazy town" in a series called Hockeyville. In Canada, hockey pools are watched more carefully than the Evening News. "I am not a hockey fan" are not words to be spoken aloud. I hide my lack of enthusiasm from those around me, in an attempt to not offend the devoted.
Our team, the red team, has a tough time. They have not won a game all season. Tonight is no different. Goal after goal gets into their net. Few attempts to score. A lot of missed passes and fumbled pucks. But still they keep playing. Skating the full two hours, no quitting allowed. I know they all love hockey. The disappointing season has not dulled their enthusiasm for this sport. 

You know what? Maybe I am becoming a hockey fan?? Maybe just a little, at least ... 

I watch the action more closely now. Seeing how they could improve, rooting for these little underdogs. Proud of seeing my students in a different way: so competent on ice, so comfortable wearing these big, bulky uniforms. Moved by the emotion, the passion, the sheer intensity. These kids are obviously having fun. They play with incredible enthusiasm, in spite of their lack of scoring success. 

Kids of all ages line the bleachers, watching their peers with attention, following each move. They know each player, each number, each position. Grandpas and Kookums, too, sitting beside the parents and uncles. Little kids chase older boys down the front of the row, laughing in delight. No adults tell them stop: for this moment, there are no limits or boundaries.  Teens and near-teens wave at me, and even give a hug in greeting. Old students, girls, share details of their lives, ask me for a smoke. 

Today, in class, we wrote about our passions. One boy wrote, "hockey is life." I asked him to explain, in his essay, and now, I think I, too, am beginning to understand. Not as the die-hard fan would understand, perhaps, but in my own unique way. 

Hockey is never giving up, but playing the full 60 minutes, even if you're losing, badly. It is never losing your love of the sport, even when your team is the worst in the league. 

And life is playing the game, even when you are broke, heartbroken, divorced, widowed, sick. Staying alive when you feel like you should kill yourself. Holding on for the full 3 periods of your life, until the game is done.

Hockey is continuing to play, even when you're winning. Not giving up halfway through the game, content with the goals scored last period. Instead, pushing through for more points, more achievements, more accomplishments. 

In life, it's trying hard at your job, even when you can get away with slacking off. It's getting your hands dirty at home, even when you are an important person at work. It's finding new ways to love your spouse, even when they have already promised to stay with you forever.
Hockey is recognizing those who are hurt on the ice
Photo by slgckc, via Flickr, CC -BY 2.0
Hockey is recognizing those who are hurt on the ice, no matter whose team, with a loud banging of sticks. It is showing respect to those who get up, and recognizing that even opposing teams are all getting to play the same great team. 

In life, it's showing compassion to those who hurt, even if we are not on the same side. Like the same political side, or the same side of town, or the same side of a family dispute.  It is recognizing that we all fall down, but getting up is what makes us a hero. And letting the fallen know, loudly and definitely, that we are rooting for their well-being.
Yes, yes, I admit, it, maybe I am starting to like hockey, just a bit. Approximately 200 kids and adults huddled up in a freezing arena  have changed my heart. I am finally starting to get a bit of this "sports thing." It's not just about being macho, and wanting to be the best. It's about life itself. It's pretty emotional ... Maybe hockey is the male version of the chick flick...even though it looks all rough and tough, it gets you right in the heart. 

Take care and God bless. Please feel free to share this message, if you feel others would gain encouragement from it.  Please share your thoughts and feelings about the post in the comments section below. And sign up if you would like to receive regular updates from the Life in the Woods blog. 


  1. I love your reflections on a simple game played by kids....wonderful!

  2. Bill, nice to hear from you! Thanks for your kind words ... and hope you are doing well! Life is crazy busy with grade six for me, right now.


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