Not watching hockey

As a person not born in Canada, I have integrated pretty well, I think. I know the words to the national anthem in French as well as English. I can name the strengths and weaknesses of several politicians at the federal, provincial, and even municipal level. I understand some of the complexities of our love/hate relationship with our cousins, the Americans.

But I have completely failed to understand the national passion for hockey. I don’t get it at all. I am not a sports spectator anyway, though I have of course spent countless hours watching my children’s soccer and softball games — but that’s a parental requirement. Sport as such leaves me cold. And ice hockey is a particularly alien concept: fast, loud, frequently violent, and played in a cold and unfriendly environment.

I know there is something going on right now called the playoffs. Exactly what that is I couldn’t tell you, though I assume it’s some kind of end-of-season championships. But it means that even apparently normal Canadian men and women get caught up in playoff madness: needing to know the score, being elated when their team wins and cast down when it loses, criticizing players and debating endlessly what they should have done differently, and wearing hockey shirts, surely the ugliest garment ever designed, in public.

Pubs and casual restaurants that have big-screen TVs are intolerable locations during playoff time. But even if you avoid them, you are not necessarily safe. I have friends who have downloaded an iPhone app that gives them regular updates on game scores — I am lobbying to have the official list of Deadly Sins increased from seven to eight.

Of course, home is a hockey-free zone. But you have to be careful when going out. During playoff season so far, I have had to hide in artsy venues and the kind of restaurants where food and conversation are the twin priorities. I have:

  • been to a performance of Ruddigore, the Gilbert & Sullivan comic operetta, performed by the North Shore Light Opera Society at Presentation House Theatre;
  • attended  my daughter’s school play, an episode of Blackadder where she played Baldrick;
  • listened to Marc Destrubé and Alexander Weimann play Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms sonatas, courtesy of Early Music Vancouver, at the Unity Church on Oak;
  • listened to Jeremy Fisher and The Wailin’ Jennys at the Chan Centre;
  • dined at Les Faux Bourgeois, the Avenue Grill, and Osaka Sushi.

And —  success! Not a single televised hockey game at any of those locations.


4 thoughts on “Not watching hockey

  1. I’ve asked the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to review your citizenship status, since it seems quite clear that you cheated on the exam. Failure to support one’s home team during the NHL playoffs is, or should be, grounds for deportation!

    But perhaps we now have an explanation for the erratic play of the Vancouver Canucks in this round of the playoffs; if they lose to Chicago (as seems almost certain) we will have found our scapegoat.

    As you will recall, a dear mutual friend emigrated to the States many years ago; she has since become an expert and a fan of *their* national sport; I urge you to follow her fine example. If you should have a change of heart, I will happily instruct you in the nuances of the game: the odd man rush, the five-hole, the Gordie Howe hat trick.

  2. Thank you, Collective: I am grateful for the offer, though unlikely, I fear, to have a change of heart at this stage of my life.

    Checking Wikipedia’s list of hockey terminology, I observe with a shudder that the Gordie Howe hat trick requires a player to score a goal, notch an assist and GET INTO A FIGHT all in the same game (apologies for the upper case, but it seemed the only form of typographic emphasis available to me when commenting).

  3. I am left breathless, Anmaru, at the sheer number of artsy events and gourmet dinners you have packed into playoff season. And you even forgot to count Ian McEwan in there. Is this typical? When do you find the time to curl up with all those books? To blog? To work? Do you have a source for free tickets?

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