Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Hockey Needs Right Now Is Hockey

by NiNY

What a horrible summer.

The start of the season simply can't come fast enough right now.

How do you begin to reconcile sadness at this level? One was bad enough. Two was shocking. Three was almost too much to bear. Adding 30+ more to that list is unfathomable.

I don't think I can reconcile that in my mind.

It occurs to me that what I need right now is some hockey.

Hockey is a beautiful woman with a missing front tooth. Hockey is a majestic triumph of architecture with a window blown out. Hockey is a Bugatti Veyron with bird shit on the hood. Hockey celebrates its beauty in full sight of its harsher, more feral side like no other sport in the world. It accepts its warts better than any other sport in the world. It's a sport that brings tears of joy to your eyes at the same time you're inhaling its stink. There's no expectation of perfection without paying the price of imperfection first with hockey. Hockey is brutally honest and quite true.

For those of you who play, think about those first steps onto the ice. The bright lights hitting off the glassy ice. Is there a freer feeling in your life?

A hockey game is about taking a pure tableau and sullying it - all in the sometimes-vain effort to achieve the pear-shaped tone of perfection. It's like surfing to try to catch the perfect edge, but without the sharks or the sand in your crotch. A hockey game literally starts out with a clean slate - pristine, glowing and beautiful. Then hockey takes that crystalline perfection and slices through it in an inherently violent manner with razor-sharp blades that scuff, scar and mar that surface.

It's a perfect vehicle for celebrating the good in life as well as venting the frustrations from an incredibly difficult summer.

Your smash your body into another player's body at full speed - in the hopes that you will spring your teammate for an exquisitely graceful deke, shot and goal. You lay out your body to receive an impact from a piece of rubber shot at you like a flat, black, dead projectile (like the eyes of a shark) - so that your off winger might skip around his mark and break away on the goalie in that silent, intense pas-de-deux.

As a spectator, you are treated to these acts in a contest-long exercise of waxing and waning emotions. It's hard to worry about your mortgage payment when two men are bare-knuckle brawling on skates on ice in front of you.

And then the horn blows and the Zamboni comes out to cleanse the ice of the violence of the preceding period, and prepare it for another onslaught. Atonement, salvation, rebirth. It's as if they'd fought a day during the Civil War and then cleared the dead and left the field for forty or fifty years until the field had been repaired, regrown and restored to the level of natural beauty that it was at the day before the armies had arrived - before conducting the next day's warring. Only, in hockey, this takes 20 minutes and you get to take a leak and buy a beer while you wait.

Many of us players and spectators find solace and redemption in playing and watching hockey. We find inspiration and solidarity on that ice.

That's what we need now. That's what hockey needs now.

I don't know why that plane went down. I don't care who's to blame. It's still going to be an incredibly sad thing even after we find out - assuming we do.

If it was up to me I'd have every team start camp early. Schedule additional pre-season games. Lengthen prospect tournaments. Just get the boys back on the ice. There may not be answers in the sound of pucks thwacking off the glass and whistles shrilly echoing through empty arenas, but there might be peace and there will definitely be release. And for us fans, just getting into those buildings, the proximity of other grieving fans, giving and taking support during each other's weak moments. Hockey is brutally honest and quite true.

Let hockey heal itself by being itself.

That's what hockey needs right now.


Ms. Conduct said...

Amazing post, Nick. Waterworks...

Nick in New York said...

I hope you know how much it means to me to hear that from you.

Ms. Conduct said...

Oh hell, I'm a hack. That was poetry. Thank you for writing it. It obviously is resonating.

@_2244 said...

Well done, Nick. These words will be squarely on my mind tonight as I walk into the rink. And though I'm not playing, the chance to referee will give me something I am sorely in need of tonight: being back on the ice again. It never ceases to amaze me how being in the middle of the controlled chaos and mayhem that embodies hockey can bring such peace and clarity to my mind. And I SO need that tonight...

Damn, Nick. Nice work, my friend. Thanks for sharing your words with us.

Nick in New York said...

2244 I decided I'm going to go to a drop in tonight. Honestly, this might sound lame, but it's the best way I can think of to pay homage - that doesn't involve drinking a lot of vodka.

artandhockey said...

Amen to that! Beautifully said. Bring on Hockey!