lovehockey awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When lovehockey awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning.”
-John O’Donohue, Irish Poet, NHL Insider
Where once there was nothing, now there was hockey. The lights flicker on, their steady hum heralding the dawn of a fresh season that will most certainly breathe new life into our once faded desires. Mist rolls off the chilled bloom of the ice surface, untouched since it’s last sweeping. It is a blank canvas. and in it’s disuse it could not now be more perfect. It waits patiently, hoping above all hope to tell the story of the fabled warriors, clad in their traditional battle gear from head to bladed toe.
The solitary clack of the day’s inaugural puck ricochets off the ice, the unmistakable splintering of the ice as the first blade carves through it, these are the sounds of hockey, a pristine symphony conducted for an hour or two with every outing, foretelling and end to our winter of discontent.
Soon this empty chamber, populated now by only the grizzled conscripts of the ice running through their drills, will be permeated excitement, expectation, wonder, thrill, and the thousands of people who will flock here to express these emotions, and a robust array of even more. It is the rehearsal to hockey’s dance, replete with nerviness, anticipation, an unexplainable fervor that is both terrifying and liberating for those awaiting to perform. And this year’s limited engagement has bred a deeper sense of curiosity than in seasons past.
But slaking that thirst for understanding will have to wait. It is not yet time. In the now, all that matters is that puck. That foreboding 6 by 4, those militant orange pylons, the shrill whistles, and those clipboards, ever the debriefing for the missions to follow.
It is training camp. A diffusion of wonder, as it does every year, impregnates the charges on the ice, the scribes who tell tale of their exploits, and the masses who congregate here simply for support (most times). As it is every year, the preseason is a rebirth; a clean slate. The errs of yesteryear are both long forgotten and ever present on the minds of anyone with a particularly vested interest. Now, more than ever, it may be necessary to embrace that notion of departure. After the paramount atrocitie, the stink of greed leaving us jaded and hollow, those of us who treat this game as more than just a callow pastime, need to embrace this camp as more than just the pretense to game Zero of hockey’s newest campaign.
The optics surrounding the grim doings that delayed our passion are just that – grim. And no, we will never forget it. How can we? Just as the painful memories of the last lockout begin to decay, a fresh one set us off on another long journey of bitter thoughts and angry diatribe. Those won’t just go away. It is an unfortunate byproduct of the necessities needed to make hockey, and our prevailing love for it, a living, breathing entity, and no, IT IS NOT OKAY.
But to focus on those peripherals at this juncture, outside of leaving them as a casual reminder to those in charge that this is unacceptable and can never come to fruition again (say, for example, in 8 to 10 years), is an experiment in grievous self loathing and defeatism. Yes, it happened, but as of now, hockey, our child, is back in our arms, and that’s all that matters now.
For hockey is hockey; the sum of it’s parts, the owners, the negotiators, the vile characters who we know exist in the background but are no longer forced to conjure in our minds, they are not hockey.
Sven Bartschi is hockey. The rowdy fans in the Press Level sections at the Dome are hockey. The wonderful men and women who ply us with nachos and Heroin Beer are hockey. That wide eyed child in the third row, face to face with his once impossibly far away heroes, that kid is hockey. Lanny McDonald is definitely hockey. Zambonis, Harvey The Hound, Bearcat Murray, Ron MacLean, all hockey. The Calgary Flames ARE HOCKEY.
Jarome Iginla is the most hockey thing to ever happen. Let’s never forget that. Jarome Iginla is the reason we love hockey so much, not HRR, or Gary Bettman, or Leather Fetish Murray Edwards, or even newly minted hero Scot Beckenbaugh (I still love that guy, but regardless), these are lamentable realities that fuel what we love, but they are not Jarome Iginla.
And I think now more than ever is an important time to really let that sink in.
Welcome back hockey. We missed you, and we are not going away. Your rebirth is ours.
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