The Truth About Hockey: It’s All in Our Stories, Folks

I’m getting sick of getting sick of the lockout.

What I mean is, I’m getting sick of pretending that I care about the NHL. I don’t care about the NHL. I like that the NHL combines great players/franchises, and that it keeps hockey entertaining.  That’s about it. Every other thing I like about hockey, about the league, my favourite team…it comes down to stories.

These stories belong to me.  These stories belong to hockey, too. But they do not, and I’m realizing this more and more, belong to the NHL.

Here’s why I “care” about the NHL:  Because I still remember when I started cheering for the Sens instead of the Leafs.  Because one time, I rescheduled a date when I realized Ottawa and Montreal were facing off that night (I lived with a Habs fan at the time. This was serious business.).  Because in second year, I picked up a contract job at the All Star Game and it was awesome.  Because I made it to Scotiabank Place for a cheap student game night when I had a cold (and could barely talk, let alone cheer). Because after a long day, Hockey Night in Canada is just the best.

These stories may be completely drenched in the NHL, but that’s not what they’re about. They’re about people.

They’re about sipping hot chocolate as Krissy digs out her old jersey, or begging Michelle to come out to the pub because “this one’s a BIG DEAL.” They’re about long distance calls home to hash out the highlights. They’re about meeting folks from New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal—and connecting with them, just because we’re all hockey fans.   They’re about cheering with people I’ve never even met, just because of seat proximity (or, some nights, the simple hashtag #GoSens).

If the Lockout has shown me anything, it’s that these memories (NHL-affiliated as they may be) do not revolve around the league itself. At their core, these stories are about the sport, community, and whatever weird passions are involved in me caring too much about scores and stats.  NHL or no NHL, I have been waking up at 4 am to watch the World Juniors.  I have been reminiscing on my ball hockey days with my little brother, who still retains a mini stick collection.  And long before I worked at the All Star Game, I volunteered for a local TV station.  (It was 2008.  My hometown hosted the Ontario Hockey League championships. I worked cameras and graphics for the postgame show. The Kitchener Rangers made it to the finals. We lost to the Spokane Chiefs, and the cup snapped in half as they held it up. I laughed hysterically, even though my still heart hurt a bit from the loss.)

I remember this. I remember cuing up highlights, and watching missed games alongside the local hosts (I still revel at their endless knowledge of the game).  I remember when, in one of my slower moments, I finally understood what an offside was.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the NHL.

Neither does the fact that this morning, my little brother busted in and turned on my light at 3:55 am.  This was exactly 5 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, and 35 minutes before Canada faced the USA in the World Juniors.  I had worn my red and white Canada scarf to bed.  “Bed,” by the way, was a 2 hour nap between 2 and 4 in the morning.  Classy is as classy does.

Why?  Because I watch hockey. So does my brother. And if the World Juniors are being held in Russia, then I’m microwaving pizza and mocking pregame blabber at an ungodly hour. It’s that simple. And in the end, it’s about us—he and I, the country we love, the game…me singing obnoxiously to bug him, smeared make up, early morning Diet Coke.  Who cares about the NHL?

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What I care about is right here.

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