There were a couple of times last week where I’ve felt the rush of watching hockey as a fan, and part of me is just looking for nothing but those moments.
I put a lot of work into watching hockey. It’s fun for me, and I’m lucky in that I’ve somehow turned a hobby into a career. But sometimes you miss the rush of just… watching a game for the sake of watching the game.
Last Monday, I was at the Montreal-Vancouver game, where the Habs jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first period, Canucks fans were despondent, and the Canucks climbed back to eventually take a 5-4 lead midway through the third, then somehow trail 6-5 before tying the game up 6-6 with 90 seconds to go and winning in overtime. That was fantastic. Even though I’m no longer a fan of the Canucks (I gave that up the day they traded Roberto Luongo) it was still enjoyable to just watch something ridiculous happen in front of my eyes. It brings you excitement and joy, and even though this is another lost season for the Canucks, those types of games will be remembered by the fans for years.
Fast forward to Saturday night. I was at a Christmas party with some friends. It was early in the evening, and the party was apparently being hosted by 1980s sitcom tropes because there were three women in the kitchen, and the two men that were at the house were in the living room watching this game. The sound was off and we watched the third period, drinking copious amounts of wine. I liked just being able to turn my brain off and watch a game with no stress about the result (even if I still hold a soft spot for the Leafs).
The game was pretty dramatic in the late stages. We didn’t have the sound on and couldn’t understand why the Leafs didn’t get a 4-minute powerplay after Matthews was high-sticked. My friend put some money on Calgary when I told him that the Leafs were 1-6 in overtime this season (he must have got good odds because our stream was behind and the penalty had happened) and we just watched and reacted.
It’s fun to do that. I love hockey in December because the schedule kind of thins out and it’s easier to watch hockey in more social situations. People have less work and school obligations so it’s easier to get a group together and just watch a game at the bar or something. It really is the purest expression of love for the sport, and I feel more connected to the people around me and my love for the game than when I’m burning the candle at both ends obsessing over whether I should credit Justin Holl with an exit pass or Mitch Marner with a carry-out.
I guess those are the moments that remind me that this isn’t entirely about work, that this is about fun, and I never want to let the “seriousness” of the game interfere with my analysis. Hockey is meant to be weird and wacky. While Saturday’s Leafs-Flames game wasn’t either, it was no doubt entertaining.
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