Hockey: The Crack Cocaine of Sports

On a cold winter’s day, hundreds of years ago, a man sat outside his village staring at a frozen lake. Hours passed and he continued sitting there, lost in his own thoughts. His eyes had not strayed from that lake as he sat, oblivious to the rest of the world.

Very rarely did someone leave the village in the winter and even more rarely did a person stare at frozen water for hours at a time. This concerned the villagers, worrying them that a witch or warlock had cast some sort of spell on him. Witches and warlocks were much more prevalent in those days.

“What are you thinking about?” the other villagers finally asked him, preparing to baptize him with holy water if the situation should call for it.

His concentration momentarily broken, he would attempt to explain. “I was thinking about putting some blades on my shoes, sliding on that ice, and hitting things with a stick.”

The villagers took a second to process this information. After all, they had been taught that ice was dangerous. You could slip and fall down. In fact, they reminded him of this, saying, “You do know you could slip and fall down, right?”

“Yes,” he replied, “but that is the fun part. No one wants to watch me hit things with a stick unless someone falls down.”

Thus, hockey was born.

Living in Kansas City, my exposure to hockey is very limited. I have seen all three “Mighty Ducks” movies and “Slap Shot.” I have ice skated a couple of times and fallen down on ice a couple of times. Without a professional hockey team, my knowledge of the game was limited at best.

Sure, there were a couple of minor league hockey teams I could learn from. These games, though, usually turned into boxing on ice. (Note to self: Great idea. Contact Michelle Kwan about setting this up.) Occasionally a goal would be scored, but more often a person would have his face punched, punch the other person’s face in retaliation, and then go sit in a Plexiglas box.

All of my life, I had been raised watching the peaceful game of baseball. There was very little violence and even less blood. We would go to many games and enjoy the outdoors and the warm summer air.

When my family moved to Nashville this summer, though, I wondered what they would do. My family would be baseballess (baseball-free? Debaseballed?) in Nashville, leaving behind the adorably terrible Kansas City Royals. What would they root for? Would they be able to function without baseball? What would become of them?

I found the answer last week when I visited for the first time.

“Are you going to watch the Predators’ game with us?” my mother said. Assuming they were talking about a game involving the movie “Predator,” I was very confused. Are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura competing in something together? I could only assume that game would involve some sort of machine gun. As it turns out, they were talking about the NHL’s Nashville Predators.

My family had adopted the blood-sport of hockey.

That Saturday, we waited in line at 8:30 a.m. to buy cheap tickets. Apparently hockey fans are willing to get up early on Saturdays for cheap tickets. They bring their lawn chairs and put on their best jersey, then they sit. And they sit. They talk about hockey and sit, waiting to buy tickets from a lady who has significantly less enthusiasm about this early morning ticket session. After a coffee run that took me through a marathon (The second marathon of the weekend in Nashville, which is apparently the world capital of large groups of running people.) and a great deal of sitting, we left with $10 tickets in hand, preparing for that evening’s game.

There are a few rules to hockey. Yes, there are the rules to the game, but they really seem to be making those up as they go. To watch hockey, though, is an art form.

The main rule is the rule of “suck.” In Nashville, the fans use this as their main weapon. When the opposing team is introduced, people shout “SUCKS!” after each name. When the opposing player’s name is said because of a penalty or any other negative reason, the crowd shouts, “SUCKS!” after his name. When the other team scores, “SUCKS!” is shouted multiple times. When the cotton candy vendor offers you a delightful fluffy treat, you scream “SUCKS!” in his face, leaving bits of spittle clinging to his chin.

The fans even have delightful melodies involving ‘suck,’ replacing the “Hey!” in songs with the much more abrasive “YOU SUCK!” Hockey fans can be uncouth.

Another rule is to not ask too many questions. For instance, in between periods, two cheerleaders skate out on the ice with a bucket and shovel while a mediocre local band plays a cover of “Jessie’s Girl.” I do not know why they are there. I also don’t understand why the cheerleaders look like they dressed for an NBA game in a nice warm arena instead of a frigid, icy game. I don’t even know why there are cheerleaders. As far as I’ve noticed, cheerleaders never really lead a cheer. They aren’t great at their jobs, I guess.

Despite my confusion about these things, I knew better then to ask. Hockey seems like a game you don’t want to overthink. It’s not chess or Scrabble. Thinking is going to get you nowhere. Plus, if you ask the wrong person, they’ll probably just tell you that you suck.

After seeing minor league hockey, I was sure I would experience a better game with much less fighting and a larger focus on finesse and puck handling. Then a player was sent flying into the fist of a goalie. Another player got put into a headlock and punched upside his skull. All of a sudden, I was watching a scene from “Fight Club.”

The game came down to the wire and was surprisingly exciting to watch. While I enjoyed my hockey excursion, the biggest surprise of the night came from the seat to my right. My wife, a tiny, diminutive woman, sat there, transfixed by the game. She cheered and rooted, especially at the fighting. She took a break from rooting to update her Facebook profile, proclaiming that she “loves hockey.”

For many people, this wouldn’t be a big deal. For me, though, it’s the most shocking thing I’ve heard in years. My wife doesn’t like any sport. She says football is dumb. She likes baseball only because she gets a hot dog if she goes. Sports are not her thing.

Another thing she doesn’t care for is violence. She won’t watch “Rocky” with me because it’s just a movie about two guys punching each other.

Apparently, the magic combination is sports AND punching.

Of course, now I’m concerned that the hockey lifestyle will take her over. If I get her the wrong Christmas present, she might scream “SUCKS!” She might pull my shirt up over my head and punch me in the face. I could even see her installing a penalty box, giving me ten minutes for “dishwasher neglect.”

Yes, hockey has taken over my family and wife. It is a cancer that is plaguing this fair land of ours.

It’s also pretty fun. There aren’t many sporting events where I can have coffee and not feel like a freak for ordering a hot beverage. Plus, it can be very entertaining listening to people debate whether he “really meant to punch him” or not.

Is hockey a crazy sport? Yes it is, but no more so than any other sport. It makes as much sense as throwing a ball at a basket or running as hard as you can for a short distance. Plus, it is apparently the crack cocaine of sports, creating an addiction alarmingly quickly. How can you argue with a sport that is so fun people become fans in less than six months?

I guess that crazy villager was onto something.

17 thoughts on “Hockey: The Crack Cocaine of Sports

  1. I see my mistake now. I have shied away from hockey because I didn’t understand it. The Blue Line thing had me completely flummoxed. My mistake was I was trying to figure out the rules.
    It’s really just about the fighting, isn’t it?

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  2. You should see the hockey parents – they go beyond yelling ‘SUCK’ at all the children on the other team. Screaming at each other and punching parents on the opposite team seems to be part of the sport as well, especially if they think little timmy’s future in the NHL might be at risk. Plus, there’s lots of falling down on the ice (for the first few years, anyways), so even if you’re amongst unnaturally sane hockey parents, you still get to watch a bit of comedy on ice.

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    • I am honestly feeling like I will not notice the difference at all. They could combine all of the teams into one big super team and I wouldn’t notice for at least a couple of years. Now, if Kansas City got a hockey team, then I would probably take more of a notice. Right now, though, I have no one to root for.

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  4. “This post SUCKED!” (in a good way!) 🙂 Could you imagine if we bloggers replied this way all the time?

    Reminds me of the show “The Middle” when it comes to their eldest son, Axel, everything is LAME. That’s lame…how lame…you’re lame…uhhhh, LAME?

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