Sitting in a frigid arena at 7:30 this morning, watching my oldest son streak down the open, pristine sheet of ice and circling back, smiling all the time, I realized that the love of hockey begins with the sound of blades on a hard sheet… it is effortlessly gliding past the blue line, ragging the puck in to snap it into the top of the net. Then digging the puck out while easing backward, swinging around and starting up towards the opposite end.
Finding beauty in these simple motions is what makes hockey such a passion for Canadians. It’s all the time we spend with the game. It seems each week brings such wonderful scenes that will forever be etched in our memories… like my son’s morning skate. There are also collective memories we share with others; watching ‘your team’ play a hard-fought Saturday night game to notch another needed victory. And then there are the magical times every so often when Team Canada takes to the ice to defend our living history of hockey supremacy.
Of course there is more…. As kids you watch certain professional players and become emotionally attached to their near-demi-god status as a Canadian-boy-turn-NHL-star. As “that boy” in you ages, you’ll fondly remember those childhood dreams and always feel connected to something much larger than your daily existence. It starts with the blades and the fun of the game and, for many, it transcends to something grander.
I suppose those passions were what stirred last week when the storied Montreal Canadians celebrated their 100th anniversary. The December 4 ceremony was something very special for those who lived through a truly golden era of hockey. All the demi-gods turned out for the millennium ceremony – Beliveau, Lafleur, Roy, ‘Pocket’ Richard, Robinson, Gainey…. . The franchise has posted some of the highlights.
The game means so much to all of us – on many different levels. In the months ahead, By George will be collecting statements of ‘What hockey means to us’ to add to our discussion of this great Canadian experience.
(ed. – This column first appeared in By George Journal in December 2009.)
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