A sweet ending to the best reality TV series of the season...
Hockey came to me late in life--I was on the cusp of 30 when I saw my first in-person game at the old Chicago Stadium in the mid 80's.
And so the appreciation began.
I don't know who the Blackhawks played that day but I know we sat way up high in seats that cost all of $5 if memory serves. A friend's quick tutorial about icing and offside was really all that was needed to know what was going. I'm still learning the nuances some 30 years later, and there isn't a time that I watch a hockey game that I don't seem to learn something new, or leave with a new admiration for those who play/coach it.
Then came this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
A truncated NHL regular season gave way to a glorious couple of months of tension-packed games, ending with Chicago's win over Boston in the concluding round, There were hard hits, lost teeth, amazing shots, stunning blocks and guys leaving it all on the ice. You forget that, sometimes--everything these players do happens on blades on a substance most of us have a passing acquaintance with each winter or anytime we have a cocktail. And they make it look so...natural. Skating, passing, shooting and scoring--all on a surface many of us would be hard-pressed to remain upright on, much less mobile or effective.
No game is flawless--hockey still has fighting, which virtually vanishes as the postseason grinds on, and this year's strike proved that a 45 game or so regular season campaign is just fine, thank you. Ticket prices are ridiculous and there are salary issues as well--that's a beef with almost any pro sport.
Haters will hate--the puck is hard to see, I don't understand the rules, why do they have to fight, etc.--and that's fine. I won't try to lift one of my sports of choice by tearing down another. If the legion of hockey fans fails to grow after this spring's playoffs, fine. This fan is content to see his remain a boutique endeavor, one with traditions and toughness, purpose and pride, playoff beards and missing teeth.
I don't know if I would've had the guts to play the game if it were accessible as I was growing up, but it would've been worse never to have known it at all.
The best reality TV this late spring and early summer had nothing to do with bachelorettes and amateur singers and EVERYTHING to do with hockey pucks and bearded wingers.