Never let it be said that the iPod touch cannot be used for a long form blog post. I said in a recent podcast that I never thought I'd be podcasting about hockey, but I'm Canadian, and after some 70 or so podcasts and a couple hundred blog entries, I think I'm entitled come playoff season. As I sit in a Montana's in Mississauga (restaurant chain for the uninitiated) I am watching the NHL playoffs on multiple TVs and recalling a few memorable times that hockey has influenced my life.
The only time I ever felt like a sports hero was at age seven when I scored an overtime goal on a breakaway and, for the first time in my life, intentionally lifted the puck off the ice for the winner. And while I enjoyed many other moments playing hockey, that moment ranked right up there.
A couple of decades later I had bit more of a surreal hockey moment when I spent the one semester if my post-secondary life in a university residence during Teachers' College. Sitting in our floor's TV lounge/common area, a group of us foul- mouthed Canadians in a US Teacher Ed. program (all guys in the room at the time mind you - and at a university that still bore the vestiges of a Franciscan monestary... save your Catholic jokes for later) learned that Mario Lemieux had been stricken with cancer in the prime of his career. In the five months I spent in that dorm, I never heard the place so quiet... eerily so. You wouldn't think that a collection of some of the most misogynist mouths I'd ever heard could be stunned into silence at the news of a hockey player's illness. No one spoke for several minutes, or at least until the next gratuitous sex-filled beer commercial anyway.
The last hockey memory comes in the form of a trip to Las Vegas. The moment itself was hardly earth-shattering, but did suffice in conveying a vast gulf between two culture. On the one occasion I've been to Vegas in October, I happened to be sitting in the MGM Sportsbook in front of a sea of television screens (a place I often refer to as Valhalla). That night was a major playoff game between the Red Sox and the Yankees and the room was full of fans in official MLB attire hootin' and hollerin' as their teams played what I'm sure was an amazing. My friend and I, however, sat at the far end of the room watching two small screen that were playing NHL games. It was the opening night of the regular season. The games were insignificant. I think Minnesota and the Ducks may have been involved. And we were in our glory.
There was a popular beer campaign a few years back that rifled off a dozen reasons to claim "I AM Canadian". And while I would never claim that Canadians have a sole claim on the game that I was raised with, I never watched one of those commercials without thinking, how many people could explain the following: Peter Puck, putting the biscuit in the basket, straddling the blue line, going roof, Savardian Spinnerama, neutral zone trap, or why 92 goals or 215 points in a season are feats of biblical proportions.