Hockey.

I wish I could have grown up playing hockey, even though I would have been horrible at it. What a great sport! You’re wielding a stick with a curved blade, blasting away at a hard rubber puck which at the right speed can maim an inadequately protected person, slamming your opponent into a fiberglass wall with bone-crunching malice for the amusement of bloodthirsty rinkside spectators– and ice-skating, which is always romantic.

My favorite player in hockey, or in any sport right now, is Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I first learned about him in 1993, my last year in high school. What impressed me most that season was not that he was the best player on the two-time defending champions, nor that he was regarded as the next Gretzky. It wasn’t even that he won the Pearson Award (players’ MVP), the Hart Trophy (writers’ MVP), and the Art Ross Trophy (top scorer with 160 points; second place had 148). What impressed me most about Lemieux was that he won the Pearson, the Hart, and the Ross despite missing 24 out of 84 games due to radiation therapy for Hodgkins’ lymphoma.

If you think about it, that’s even more impressive than my winning 25 consecutive paper football games in seventh grade.

Anyhow, to the point: Thank God the NHL is back from that ridiculous lockout. I’ll never understand why professional hockeyballers. whose minimum salary was $180,000 and average salary was $1.8 million, would go on strike or force a lockout by the owners. I would give my left foot to play professional soccer; you’d think these babies could tolerate a salary cap.

I do wish that the Stanley Cup had been stamped with the names of the champions of Canadian amateur hockey for 2004-05. That would have been a nice touch, especially since the trophy originally went to amateur teams. It also would have been a nice jab at the professionals, who apparently thought they made so little money that they chose to make no money at all in the 2004-05 season. How principled.

But there were two silver linings to the lockout. First and most important was that the NHL, hoping to draw fans back after the lockout, made some changes that should increase goal scoring and improve game flow. The games have been more exciting and higher scoring so far, but we’re only a few days into the season. Here’s hoping the good times last. (And here’s hoping FIFA considers making some changes, too.)

The second silver lining was that the lockout gave Lemieux, who is 40 years old now, more time to recover from injury and get “re-charged” for this season. The Penguins are as yet winless, but they’ve been exciting to watch. Their new wunderkind, Sidney Crosby, has five points in three games… nice to see a rookie on at least one of my favorite teams can perform.

Happily, now that hockey’s back, the summer of 2006 will be as wonderful as I expect every even-numbered-but-not-evenly-divisible-by-four summer to be. Why? The NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, and the World Cup in Germany. Also, I don’t have to worry about a barrage of political ads leading up to the Presidential election. And, of course, it won’t be as hot or humid up here as back in Florida.

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 9th, 2005 at 10:48 PM.

5 Responses to “Hockey.”

  1. MyCreativeAlias Says:
    October 10th, 2005 at 2:38 PM

GO FLYERS!!!!

  1. jmanpc Says:
    October 10th, 2005 at 4:17 PM

i like watching people beat each other up.

  1. jaxaca Says:
    October 11th, 2005 at 4:18 PM

I agree that hockey’s return is nice. Maybe I can finally wear that Avalanche jersey that I’ve had for some time now. It has my name and everything. However, with that said, I must emphasize the “betterness” of Western conference hockey over the East…man do I miss Colorado.

  1. ktea Says:
    October 11th, 2005 at 5:29 PM

I admired you called them hockeyballers, that really made my day. However, I do believe there are 2 people more excited then you about hockey being back, and that’s my brother and father. I blame them for all of my violent tendencies, all those hockey games I was forced to watch. I love it now though, if you come back to Jax you should see the Barracuda’s they are not half bad. We went to see them during the absence of the NHL.

  1. Simplexity17 Says:
    November 5th, 2005 at 1:54 AM

I love the insertion of romanticism in your somewhat violent opener…]]>

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