Not long ago, the word “hockey” managed to either curdle blood, or trigger blank looks of incomprehension. Now it’s back, and once again becoming every other word the common Canadian mutters, and the only blood it seems to curdle is mine. If you’ve not heard, the stick-prodding, skull-cracking, figure-skating dudes who play our second national sport have finally worked out a better contract with the people who own their teams. And, unsurprisingly, any notice given to soccer, lacrosse, or even local hockey games is back to nearly zero, save perhaps for their die-hard fans.
Now, hold on. If you think I mean to simply bash and criticize the sport and its fans for liking it, you are, alas, wrong. If you think that my point is to highlight the fact that this is the third labour dispute for this particular league in nineteen years, you’re still wrong (sorry). You also needn’t worry that all I plan to do is rant about how much these players make per season (around $450,000 in average: can I have their problems, please?), then ask why they don’t simply accept the first agreement placed in front of them. You can find all of that included in any rant as to why anyone thinks an elitist sport (populated mainly by the hyped-up jocks from high school whom you’ve long forgotten about) is stupid. The issues faced by the players of hockey this year were totes serious, y‘all. And we should be really happy to have Don Cherry (Dawn Chérie? Done Carry? I don’t know… Breaking Don?) and his epilepsy-inducing suits and ties back to keep us entertained at night.
No, seriously, you are allowed to be happy that the NHL is back. You have my sincere consent to stop paying attention to your social circles, to your local sports team (including hockey!), and to any other forms of actually-entertaining and undeservedly-overlooked sport. Go for it, really. Here, you can even have some weird, sticky, coloured paste to smear all over your face. You don’t look silly – trust me. Well, in any case, you don’t look any sillier.
But while you’re celebrating, just for me, please remember that each time you insult fans of America’s Next Top Model, Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girl, or (even) Vampire Diaries – it would be only too easy for you to be insulted just the same. I don’t personally recall a time when Tyra Banks stepped away from her show because receiving a couple hundred thousand dollars a year wasn’t good enough for her – or, for that matter, a time when her network locked her out of the studio because they thought they were paying her too much.
Wait – stop! Before you bring out all the garbage you can possibly find on the first page of your Google search for an argument against this, that’s not all there is to be said. You know what the NHL in Canada can be compared to? WWE. Yes, wrestling. Wrestling fans aren’t even on par with football fans in the US. The reason I use this comparison is because it takes a special breed of fan to enjoy football in America, and in my humble opinion, it just so happens that this particular breed of fan makes up for more that half the country. And then, you have the wrestling fans: the red-necked and blue-collared runoff which supports the sport of men running in shiny tights. Perhaps Canadian fans are but the mere maple-syrup interpretation: fans of the sport of men in sweaty, space-age-looking padding who skate into each other.
So yes, please, celebrate the wonders of having your beloved spectacle of a sport back. It’s okay to forget that it’s not even the first national sport of Canada. … That would be lacrosse. … Anyone? Cool. One more thing: remember that you stuck with your dear hockey league through three lockouts, several player-committed crimes, a rather large amount of severe and very real violence, and even Sidney Crosby’s weepy commercials. On the other hand, it only took the rest of us one bad episode to stop watching Glee altogether. You think about that, and have a wonderful Hockey Night in Canada.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 20, February 5, 2013.