Though it feels like an empty promise I do hope to back to writing a least a few reviews. I may try and also eat up the backlog by doing a couple of quick reviews matched with a one of a normal length. In the mean time I felt a sudden urge to write about hockey, just hockey in general.
Sports fans are an opinionated lot. I would further suggest that hockey fans may be the most ornery, superstitious, trapped-in-the-last-decade lot of all sports fans. While that can be frustrating at times it mostly is not true. For every fan that demands white jerseys for home games and cannot imagine what it is like to think that fighting is not a key part of hockey, there is another fan that thinks that punk rock makes the best entry music and that maybe it is time to allow European players to have their names spelled correctly on their jerseys. Simply put hockey fans come in a variety pack that shares in common the love of the game and touch of eccentricity that flows through hockey diehards like wind through a mullet. But the other side is that we as fans do not agree of most things. What is the purpose of NHL hockey?
If you asked the imitable Peter Evans, he might explain it in terms of a modern gladiatorial match. There are others that would look at the NHL, likely hockey in general, and tell you that the point is to win. With the array of possible replies I wanted to quickly disseminate it all down into a fairly simple concept. As such I am going to state it very simply: hockey is supposed to be fun.
There are not a great number of people in the world that could seriously argue against such a simple idea. Junior hockey coaches and obsessive parents would top the list of people that might hesitate to admit that a game is ultimately about fun, and then I am sure there are at least a few talented individuals out there that rake in big dollars but would not be a professional athlete if it were not for that payoff. The former need to lighten up and the latter are fine by me as long as they are good teammates and have a solid work ethic. Most any explanation beyond this handful of exceptions would require researched and measured support in order to convince me that hockey is not about fun.
Again, I am talking about professional ice hockey played at the highest levels. I am talking about why we watch, why we spend hundreds if not thousands on seats and clothes and accessories branded with our teams’ logos on them.
Winning is fun. When your team is winning games you are probably having fun. If your team manages to win the Stanley Cup you are probably having a ridiculous amount of fun followed by a hangover. That is the way of things. Still, I think the enjoyment of hockey goes beyond just victory. I think that my support and growing affection for the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of the English Premier League has done a lot expand my enjoyment of the game of hockey. I want to share a famous quote from the legendary Spurs midfielder Danny Blanchflower:
“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”
That statement resonates with me and is something that I wish every NHL teams would take to heart. For my own Nashville Predators I would rather see Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, and Patric Hornqvist blitz the opposing team and dazzle them with clever passes and quick plays. The draw back would of course be that the defense would almost entirely rest on the shoulders of an unlucky defensive pairing and the Titan-esque Pekka Rinne. Despite that it would be a hell of a lot of fun to watch those guys play. Now do not get me wrong. There are plenty of NHL teams that have plenty of flair, but for every Philadelphia Flyer or Edmonton Oiler there is a Nashville Predator or Minnesota Wild.
It is not as if the defensively stalwart teams cannot add some style and panache to their game. The LA Kings managed to do just about everything right and they managed to be caught doing everything right at exactly the right time. It makes for good hockey. All of this harkens back to the classic idea of risk and reward. A team that does not take risks has a very low chance of winning the ultimate prize and a very high chance of being kind of dull in the process.
If this whole essay was accused of being pointless, I would probably agree. If you are not playing to win then what is the point of playing professional hockey. But so often style can lead to goals. If a coach can make style work for the team then the team can put a fun product out on the ice and earn the points that they need. Yes, this is a classic case of easier said then done, but this is the NHL. Each team is therefore packed with NHL talent. So even if it is hard then these elite professionals are perfectly equipped to handle the challenge.
I am not really proposing anything in this essay. I just thought that it would be fun to write.
Also, lighten up.