For as long as I can remember, I have always loved hockey. Especially growing up in the suburbs of Boston, MA, there was always a rich and passionate history and following for hockey, especially the Boston Bruins. Whether they are having a great run and enjoying success, or they are in a dry spell, the city and fan base enjoys their team immensely. Boston prides itself as a hockey town. There is a blue-collar, gritty image associated with hockey, which is why people from all walks of life seem to enjoy and celebrate it. The sport combines such a beautiful medley of speed, grace, talent, power, strategy, and of course, physicality, that there is rarely a dull moment, and the combination of all these aspects in one sport is what keeps hockey fans coming back despite lockouts, losing records, and ticket price raises.
This essay is meant to pique the interest of those people who have never watched a hockey game or considered following it. My hope is that I may be able to motivate you to give it a chance.
You just might get hooked on it like I am.
The most obvious and blatant aspect of hockey, and probably what solidifies its reputation with most people, is the physical game. I have seen more exciting, ferocious fights in hockey than I have inside professional boxing rings. I have also witnessed more bone-splitting, glass shattering body checks in hockey than I have in any other sport…including football and rugby. If it’s the physical aspect you seek, look no further than hockey. There’s an old adage that states: “I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out.” This joke is not too far from the truth in many games you will watch. It is not totally uncommon to see 2 or 3 fights in some games. These are the exciting games to watch!
Before you think that I must be a barbaric Cretan, I will have you know that virtually every altercation on the ice is planned, premeditated, or at least in direct response to a previous event. They are rarely arbitrary. Part of the beauty of hockey is that the players on the ice police themselves for the most part, and the fighting exists to allow for that. If they banned fighting, there would actually be more injuries, and it would boost the senseless violence. There is an unwritten code that all hockey players know and follow, and as long as the code is respected, the system works nicely. These are some of the unseen factors that probably remain unknown to the casual viewer, but it enriches the game and makes it more exciting.
Beyond the physicality, there’s grace and artistry that is often overlooked because of the physical nature of the game. When you watch the game enough, you begin to see the plays and strategy unfold upon the ice. Especially with talented players, or a team that has great chemistry and has been playing together for a long time, you see how fast and precise the game can be.
There is so much practice, strategy and execution that goes into a hockey game, and it’s oftentimes overlooked. The timing between the five players on the ice needs to be exact and precise. Amidst the physical game, all the skating, hitting, fighting, and checking, there is an elegant ballet transpiring on the ice. At it’s best, it is fast, exact, and beautiful to watch. The good teams make an incredibly hard and challenging game look easy and effortless.
When you get to watch a player or a team who are in sync with one another, it is a gorgeous sight. The accuracy combined with the speed of a game played on skates makes it exciting and breathtaking to watch. There is nothing else like it in sports.
If you are a hockey fan, or have played yourself, you probably agree with me and know exactly what I mean. For the rest of you, the next time a hockey game is on, watch it for a few minutes. You may see what I see. You may become intrigued and watch the entire game. You also may become a lifetime fan, like me.
Enjoy the game.