Thursday, November 02, 2006

Falling in Love

Okay. I have to just admit it, as strange and painful as it is.

I’m in love.

With hockey.

I know what you’re thinking (presuming, of course, that you don’t share that sentiment).

HOCKEY?!?!?!

Yes. Hockey.

I didn’t expect it to happen. All my life I’ve been blissfully oblivious to all sports, especially team sports. I turned 20 without knowing even the basic rules of baseball or football, and only the vaguest channel-flipping half-interest in basketball. I looked at sports fans with the same sort of indulgent contempt which most people reserve for die-hard Trekkies and people who collect toys on shelves in their original packaging: a harmless pastime, but sort of weird nevertheless.

But I also lived in the U.S., which means more or less I lived in a world without hockey. Yes, I was aware of its existence, there was even a local team, but as a child hockey was perhaps even more exotic a practice than soccer, and both condemned to that odd world of ‘foreign sports’- sports without stars I had heard of, sports that weren’t featured in Nike ads. Of course, in the States, soccer is in ascendance, since it’s got kind of a cool international cache to it that is undeniably compelling to anyone who feels smothered by the country’s increasing xenophobia.

Hockey, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have gained much popularity since the distant days of my childhood. I don’t really know why, actually, except there seems to be some sort of a cultural block against it. I don’t recall ever developing any reason to hate hockey, such as the reasons I have for hating other sports, I just never noticed it, and no one ever asked me to.

Then I ended up, via a long and circuitous route, in Canada. Where, in spite of its surprisingly close proximity to the United States, hockey is totally unavoidable. It is, more or less, the only sport of universal cultural relevance. Still, I managed to ignore it for a long time. Just a sport, right? Just like all the other sports, a bunch of guys struggling to apply force to some tiny little thing in order to get it into a somewhat bigger thing, for which they are rewarded with numbers. Silly, yeah?

No. Because, you see, it turns out, hockey is not like other sports. Hockey is different. Hockey is beautiful and brutal in equal measure, a frantic, erotic, adrenaline-rush of a game. A sleek tango that somehow ends in blood and broken teeth. Particles bouncing off each other in a cold, frictionless universe. Hockey is paradoxical, and perhaps its strange self-contradictory nature is what makes it beautiful. Its speed and grace and elegance are not exclusive of its violence, in fact the violence is part of the beauty. The bodies are undeniably solid, and the consequences of collisions between them are very real, yet they move in this ethereal, other-worldly way that seems totally natural and totally strange at the same instant.

Wow.

I’m in love.

This is my hockey blog, wherein I will post assorted essays and comments on the subject in an irregular fashion. I should point out at the beginning that I am, as mentioned before, totally new to the sport, and therefore I come to this enterprise with absolutely no background knowledge. I don’t know anything about previous generations of players, or rules that have changed, or anything like that. So, if you are by some chance a hockey-knowledgeable individual reading this, I beg your patience. Some of my comments will reveal an astonishing ignorance. I will be surprised and captivated by things which, to you, are old and well-established or long-forgotten. I will make errors. Should you notice any egregious displays of such, please do post a comment in response, since I long to learn things I don’t already know. In fact, post a comment no matter what!

1 comment:

Sarah aka Flo said...

good day to you from sunny England

I thought I ought to post that "comment no matter what"

I discovered your blog this morning, and as much as you are in love with hockey, I think I have fallen in love with your writing about hockey

I have spent hours reading back (with hindsight I should perhaps have read forward from the start), and am glad the "riot" didn't put you off blogging

(coming from the land of soccer hooliganism, I sympathise)

Your story is so much like mine - I also live in a country where hockey is virtually invisible, and had ZERO interest in sport of any kind (despite living in the same street as a soccer stadium and in the middle of rugby country too) until I discovered this beautiful game, relatively recently.

This is when it hit me:
crying into my pineapple....

Anyway, a blog comment isn't the place to ramble on. I just wanted to say that I identify strongly with your words, and I wish I could write as well as you do.

I will certainly be visiting your blog regularly.

Sarah