On ice hockey

If I had anything rational to say about this sport, I would say it, but I’m not going to do that. Ice hockey is a visceral experience that is enjoyed in some other part of the brain that has nothing to do with reason, logic, or higher patterns of thought. Use a stick to put the puck in a net, and knock down anyone who tries to stop you. Oh, and to make it interesting, we’re going to do this while skating a highly polished piece of ice and add eleven more guys (or girls) to the fray, just to make it interesting. I loved to play this game as a child with flashing blades of steel strapped to my feet, flying across the ice with murder in my heart and a rock hard puck at my feet. What’s even better, we arm all of the players with a nice long stick so they can move the puck, but they also have something with which they might hit the other players. This arrangement sounds perfect to me–perfect for mayhem, that is. Fist fights are common when someone breaks the rules, hits too hard, or plays a little dirty, all of which is expected at some point in almost every game. I never played in organized games or high school–I was the wrong shape and size: I was tall and skinny, which means my center of gravity was relatively high, which is bad for skating where you want your center of gravity as low as possible. I broke two watches playing pick up games in the park, and then I stopped wearing my watch when I played hockey. I played with my skinny friends while in college, and we had a good time knocking each other down. It is common for hockey players to have lost teeth, to have broken several bones, to have bad knees (ankles, shoulders, necks, etc.,), and to have an early onset of arthritis in most of their joints. The hitting and checking is fun, but it does wear on both your body and your soul because at some point most players do ask themselves, what am I doing? I’ve gotten bloody noses, bruised everything, almost a concussion (or maybe a real one, who knows), a twisted knee, and a plethora of other injuries from this sport. Yes, it’s fast, yes, it’s exciting, and I won’t deny it is fun to watch because except for few time outs to clean up the ice, the action is non-stop. Hockey is a bit of organized violence where you can let yourself get into it without feeling like a complete Neanderthal. This game speaks to aggression and violence in an open acknowledgement of our most base urges and desires. In fact, I would suggest that some people would be totally repulsed by this spectacle, but that they might not be able to stop watching either. Hockey is not for the weak of heart or those with a refined sense of peace or passiveness. Hockey is a brawl that lasts for an hour while twelve men fight over a little black, rubber disk, which is absurd, but for many people it is a cathartic release of their most primitive, dark emotions which have no other place to go. Some people will earnestly deny that they might have violent tendencies, but my experience within the human race, being one, for example, is that there is a hockey player inside of us all. Whether we ever choose to let him/her skate out on the ice of society is another matter entirely. Some might choose to mow the lawn, wash their car, go for a run, play basketball, walk the dog, looking for ways to appease their inner hockey player, but I’m wondering if that is enough. We are all just a bit aggressive (drive during rush hour and see what I mean), so we all need to address that part of our character even though that part of our nature is irrational, dark, base, and frightening. Are we brave enough to examine that dark side of our personalities that will sometimes escape, turning us into aggressive, mean, reactionary, and violent people? So I go to a hockey game and let others hit and pound on each other, and, strangely, I find this rather satisfying—flashing blades, slashing sticks, violent checking, slap shots, spinning pucks—a juxtaposition of chaos and order.