Friday, 31 May 2013

Why Hockey?

As everyone knows, I'm a big geek...I love comic books and toy collections, Star Wars and books about wizards and plans for this afternoon include watching an episode of the '66 Batman series while building a Lego how did I suddenly become this big Toronto Maple Leafs and NHL fan after literally decades of eschewing all things jock-like in nature?? 

Well, there are a few answers to that question.  It all started back in 2010.  That was the year the Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver and Canada played the United States for Gold (spoilers...Canada won!).  Well, at the time I could care less about hockey, but my buddies were into it and I enjoyed two of the things associated with watching hockey...those being BEER and CHICKEN WINGS.  During the Olympics a nearby bar was selling double-sized pitchers and half-priced wings during the games and thus I began my hockey watching career.  Don't get me wrong, it's not the first time I ever watched a game in a bar, but this time, for a change, I actually paid attention!  With a little help from my friends and their patient explanations, I started to learn some of the rules and figure out, after years of just seeing the players skating back and forth, exactly WHAT was going on!  As my understanding increased, I began to get sucked in...

That same year, my parents gave me a Christmas gift that helped cement this new-found understanding of and interest in the game of hockey...they knew I'd recently gotten an Xbox 360 and so picked me up EA Sports NHL 10 for the Xbox.  Since you can play it with up to 4 people, my friends and I ended up spending a LOT of time with that game.  Suddenly I understood icing rules, offside, the differences between a center and a winger or a defenceman...basically ALL of the rules of the sport!  Everything became so clear!

Well, that was enough for me to begin paying attention to the 2010/2011 NHL season and start taking an interest in the Maple Leafs.  I didn't watch every game that year, but caught more and more of them as time went on.  The 2011 Stanley Cup finals were a big deal with the Vancouver Canucks having a good chance against the Boston Bruins...sort of a replay of the Canada vs USA match-up from the Olympics the year before.  Even though Canada lost that one, it still kept my interest up!

2011/2012 was the first year I really followed the entire season...The Leafs were a struggling team for sure but I saw a lot of potential.  I didn't understand why so many of my fellow Torontonians were so down on the Leafs!   They started so strong that year!  Of course it didn't last at the time, and now I get that it was the first season for the Leafs with even a glimmer of positivity in a long time.  For me it was a great jumping-on point to really start learning the team. 

Then there was a big annoying lock-out.  It almost killed my enthusiasm...BUT when the game finally DID return?  I was more pumped than ever!  This year I paid attention to every Leafs I had to watch on PVR and once I had to listen to first period on the radio in my car...but still...I was there for EVERY game!  Suddenly I found myself extremely dedicated and committed! 

But...WHY?  What makes it so captivating to me at this late stage? 

Originally I just wanted to fit in and not miss out on what was a big event amongst my friends and co-workers. Then as I learned more the game became more and more interesting simply because it's an interesting game!  Not to mention it's the only thing I watch on TV where I can honestly say I don't know what's going to happen.

Of course, one could make that point about any sport, and yet I can't stand football and find baseball and soccer rather yawn-inducing at the best of times.  Other sports don't even blip on my radar (unless you count professional wrestling from the 80s and 90s).

Hockey means more to me.  I love the intricacies of the game...the skill required, the difficulty and high-speed...the strategy and the pure dumb luck that sometimes makes or breaks a team.  But even more than that, I love the way that I feel when I watch hockey.  I picture my own dad watching Leafs games (and watch along with him, for that matter!)...or my Grandfather...or HIS Grandfather...all the way back to the original 1917/1918 NHL season, and even before.  Hockey is part of my nation's heritage and identity and it's a worthy part!  I feel a deeper connection to my family and my culture in some way by makes me feel like I'm a tiny part of something much larger than myself.  I love that!

In the end though, the main reason that I watch Hockey is just because the game is extremely entertaining!  It snuck up and surprised me but the more I learn about it, the more I become invested not just in the Leafs as a team but in each individual player's career and story...basically the more I know the more invested I become!  Hockey sucked me in, spoke to the Canadian in me and won me over, and boy am I happy about it!  It really is the best game you can name!

And that's all there is to say about it...except, of course: GO LEAFS GO!!!!! 

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