07 November 2010

I Love Hockey

It's funny how life has these little turning points. You're going about your business and then - WHAM - it takes a new course. I don't mean car accidents or finding out why you vomit every morning. Hey, I don't write this blog to depress the shit out of you.

A couple years ago, my friend Traci offered me some tickets: Anaheim Ducks hockey tickets.  I don't remember if The Ducks won this game or not. What I remember is: it was one of the most entertaining experiences of my life.

Growing up in Oregon, the Portland Trailblazers were my favorite professional sports team. Full disclosure: they were our only professional sports team. The Blazers... what can I say? If you are a Blazers fan you are no stranger to heartbreak. They'll have a series of great games and then when it counts - choke. During the "Jailblazers" years I strayed from following professional sports and never looked back.

Until that fateful night in Anaheim...

hockey penalties
At that point, I wasn't familiar with hockey other than: a bunch of dudes try to put the puck in the opponent's net. It was soccer on ice for all I knew.

Here's some of the more surprising things I learned right away:

  • Each team gets only one time out.
  • The player line-up changes about every 2 minutes.
  • There's no out of bounds.

Once the game gets going, it hardly ever stops. It's so great! In other sports, the game grinds to a halt every minute or so for a time out or because the ball goes out of bounds. In hockey they keep it going. Players go on and off the ice without having to stop play.

The constantly changing line-up is another great thing about hockey. No one player dominates the game -they're not on the ice long enough. The team really has to work together to maintain momentum. A group of five guys forms a "line" and those guys typically play together, but sometimes, due to injury or penalty, a different player has to jump in on the line. So, in other words, it's a very dynamic game.

Speaking of penalties and injuries: I cannot lie, the aggressiveness of the game is fantastic. You've gotta love a sport with penalties for: tripping, spearing, hooking and slashing. These guys get beat up more than any football player and unlike basketball there's none of that bullshit flopping. If a hockey player gets knocked down, he doesn't put on an act for the ref. He gets up and keeps playing.

There's also something called an enforcer. They tell me the NHL has discouraged the use of an enforcer in recent years, but The Ducks have one - George Parros.

Parros is 6' 5" which means when he's wearing skates: he's too tall to walk through an average doorway. I figured this dude has to be 40-years old and a bitter hockey veteran. Turns out he's about 31-years-old and a really smart guy (he attended Princeton) and does a lot of charity work for kids with cancer.

Anyway, George is our on-ice security. If the other team messes with our top goal-scoring guys too much - George sends them a message. He'll also go out an kick some ass just to motivate the team (and the fans). It's fucking magical. They'll play Rob Zombie or some butt-rocking metal music while he skates to the penalty box. Sometimes the crowd chants "Ref You Suck."

hockey player Satan
Something else I love: the player's names. You've got to hand it to hockey announcers. They've got to pronounce Slavic, Nordic, Finnish, Swedish, Russian and French-Canadian last names. Our Yankee mouths are not shaped to say things like:

Lupul
Selanne
Luongo
Pavelski
Niedermayer
Miettinen

Oh, and they even have a player named Satan. It's pronounced "Sha-Tan" but hey, it's spelled Satan.  That's so metal!





Other great things about hockey:
cup holder in bathroom stall at Anaheim Ducks Honda Center
  • The ref's (unofficially) stop blowing whistles with one minute left in the game. The game just keeps going no matter what.
  • Also in the last minute of play, the goalie of the team that's losing will leave the ice so the team can put an extra offensive player in: making it 6 on 5.
  • Sometimes (due to penalties) the teams play 4 on 5 or even 3 on 5.
  • Cup holders in the bathroom stalls. 





Before we go, I'd like to leave you with this short video from the game I went to on Friday. One of our top goal scorers (Bobby Ryan) checks this dude from Pittsburgh. It's a great hit. They show it a couple times, so watch until the end (it's only 28 seconds).

P.S. Portland used to have a pro hockey team. In fact, we were the first U.S. team to play for the Stanley Cup. The team was sold shortly thereafter and became the Chicago Blackhawks.