When I was spouting off my love for Hockey, specifically what the NHL has done over recent years to make the sport more fan friendly, my old friend Jeremy Phillips decided to say: “If you love hockey so much, why don’t you marry it.” I think he said that, either that or it was about NHL’s commissioner. Whatever it was, message came through loud and clear: “shut up about hockey”.
This week, though, you can’t get me to.
The main reason is that I am marking off another item from my bucket list this Sunday — I will be attending the NHL Stadium Series game between My New Jersey Devils, and the New York Rangers; a game that will be held outdoors at Yankee Stadium. The bucket list items specifically was “watch an NHL outdoor game”, and got bonus points when I found out NJ was in a game this year. I’ve been a Devil’s fan since 1985 because for one I grew up forced to either follow hockey teams in hated rival cities (Blackhawks? Seriously? Have you ever been to Chicago?), for two in 1985 they made a deep run in the playoffs when I first started caring about the game, and for three “their logos were awesome”. I’ve been a backwards fare weather fan of theirs since then — paying close attention when they are losing, but completely missing two of their Stanley Cup years. Since they aren’t they are so-so at best, you can believe I am on the Devil bandwagon.
The “outdoor” games started as a fad about five years ago in the NHL, but it was so popular its grown to five games this year, not to mention the college games as well. Players and fans realize hockey is like other sports where kids get their start playing it on simpler locations – where baseball just needs open field & backpacks for bases, basketball needs a hoop nailed to a garage, hockey only needed a frozen pond & a mom to call them home for dinner. There’s clearly a different spirit to the game. I wanted to experience that.
But it’s that kind of week for hockey. This past Saturday was one of my favorite sports television events — Hockey Day in Canada. CBC (broadcasted in the US on the NHL network) selects one small town that is the home of NHL players, a junior hockey team, and with good youth programs to be their home base. During that day, the rink is used for hometown teams to play in front of the stars of CBC hockey including the infamous Don Cherry (long time outspoken commentator on the “Coach’s Corner), and everywhere else, youth hockey is celebrated country wide in events celebrating how the sport brings people together. Don has a saying: “We are never more Canadian than at the dropping of the puck”.
So in that quiet week before Football’s Super Bowl (Broncos by a couple TDs by the way), I am going to rekindle my love for hockey. Tuesday I will watch the Devils on TV as they make Greg Walker’s Blues cry. I fly out Thursday night to NYC, Friday if I am not too tired & its not too late I’ll head over to Newark to watch the Devils play Washington & Alex Ovechkin, one of the best players playing today. Saturday – go be a New York tourist. Then Sunday I bundle up for below freezing temperatures to head off to one of the most famous baseball parks in country to watch me some pond hockey.
How’s that for love?