To whom it may concern

The best game you can name

I used to love hockey.

Like, A LOT.

For the past eight and a half years M and I spent countless hours together (and apart) watching the sport – curled up together on our couch, pacing the length of our living room, crammed into the booth of a sports bar, languishing in the nose-bleeds – we’ve done it all.

I used to be, as they say, ready to rock it. Vintage Canadian hockey sweater, Olympics 2010

And I loved it.

I listened to sports radio on an almost daily basis, often e-mailing or texting into the shows, with the hosts regularly reading them on air. I liked being a part of their banter.

I really loved going to parties and knowing more than all the dude-bros who were always congregating in the corners of the living room (seriously why only the corners dudes?) discussing the latest scoring stats, and drinking their Budweiser.  Their squinty eyes and slightly open mouths always said (though never out loud): How does a girl know this much about hockey?

For my birthday last year M bought me a beautiful old school Canucks jersey that I wore with pride to every game that I attended (as well as each game I watched from said before mentioned pubs/couches/houses/etc.)

My three favourite teams were (in order): the Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Redwings.

My hockey husbands were Teemu Selanne and Henrik Zetterberg.

My hockey little brothers were Jonathan Toews and Drew Doughty.

M and I bought sticks and pucks and gloves and tape, and we would brace ourselves against the biting cold of the early (or not so early) Winter mornings so we could go play street hockey together at the elementary school rink, close by to our home.

I cried big, hot, sticky tears and my body heaved with my heavy sobs, when the Canucks lost in game seven of the Stanley Cup finals, on that beautiful summer day, June 15, 2011.

(Heck, I cried big, hot, sticky tears when Patrice Bergeron scored the opening goal, and was assisted by that idiot of a goonmeister known as Brad Marchand.)

(Take my word for it, that human parasite is one giant embarrassment for all of Nova Scotia. Anyone who tells you different is unhinged.)

I once made fun of Sidney Crosby and then came to love him.

I probably watched Alex Ovechkin score a hole-in-one as many times as I watched his many highlight reels.

I loved the mastery, and skill, and speed, and intuition, and love, and passion, and hard work, and magic that hockey could produce.

I lamented over and over again at the lack of sportsmanship of the league, and the violence worship by fans, and the permeation of goon culture, and the destructive and saddening “win at any cost” attitudes of so many of the players, GMs, coaches, spectators and media.

I decried the NHL as a bush league more times than I can count.

And yet.

I loved hockey.

I used to love hockey.

I used to love hockey, but my love has left.

I have not sat down and watched (or perhaps I should just say watched – as those who have ever spent an entire three periods with me would know that I can never sit still for long) more than 30 seconds of highlights since the season began in October of last year.

I feel very much strangely detached from this whole development.

My mother and I were talking on the phone last night and she momentarily commented on the World Junior Hockey tournament, asking me if I was watching the semi-final game between Canada and Russia.

“No, Mom,” I said. “I don’t watch hockey anymore.”

“Oh yes, that’s right,” she replied. “It’s just so hard to imagine. It was such a huge part of your life for so long that I keep forgetting. I keep forgetting.”

The strange thing is, I keep forgetting too.

I keep forgetting that this sport once played such a pivotal role in my life, for so many years.

The one thing I do miss is how excited I would get each Valentine’s Day. I used to pick a sports bar where myself and M would go watch the game, order nachos and drink strongbow (or diet coke) and root, root, root for the home team (in the parlance of our times). It was a tradition that was romantic and brilliant, and most importantly, it was ours.

Now, I don’t even give the game more than a passing glance – maybe if I catch a highlight here or there I will remark on the beauty of that one play, or goal, or pass.

But mostly, I just shake my head, because everything is still the same, and I can no longer protect myself from all the rot that exists inside of the League and still enjoy the game for what it should be:

Athleticism, and art, and respect among players for their ability to create and sustain, but most importantly excel, within these two noteworthy mediums.

Instead, I read about concussions, and fists, and broken backs, and slashes, and elbows, and sexism, and racism, and homophobia, and xenophobia, and I’m just so tired of all this bullshit and it’s propagation and adoration and alienation.

And I truly believe this is what destroys athleticism. This is what destroys art.

I used to love hockey.

Maybe I still do. At some level, I’m sure of it.

But not this.

I can’t love this. Not anymore.

2 thoughts on “The best game you can name

  1. This is so shattering because I feel the same way. I think my undoing began in first year university, when I took a sports sociology course. I used to wear blinders when it came to hockey, because I was so dedicated to it and couldn’t bear to look at the game with a critical eye.

    But then once the floodgates opened (misogyny, rape culture, racism, homophobia, violence, xenophobia, socio-economic barriers, etc etc etc)… A large part of why I stopped playing hockey is because I started seeing all these things cropping up not just at the NHL or CHL level, but in my own day-to-day life as a varsity hockey player. I lost the passion, and stopped training so hard. When I was told I didn’t have a roster spot at the beginning of third year, and that I would be a practice-only player, barring injuries, I cried. Not only because I was sad I to be cut, but because I knew that I’d already quit, mentally. I kept practicing, but when my back gave out and I had to stop altogether, I was secretly relieved.

    I still watch, though. Maybe it’s just out of habit. Maybe it’s because I’ve been slowly detaching myself emotionally for the last eight years, so at some level, I can just watch the action on the ice and not feel too involved in the bullshit. That only works sometimes, though. I’ve been increasingly treating it like one treats reality TV…empty entertainment, possibly toxic. Maybe I should just make a clean break like you did. But I guess I’m not ready yet.

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