Over the summer of 2009, Puck Daddy was asking bloggers to contribute a post detailing five reasons why they love hockey. Cassie did that on her own that summer, but was the only blogger here to do so. Recently, our own John Fontana decided that the staff would resurrect this topic in a series of posts by the staff here at Raw Charge. Cassie re-answered the question yesterday, and I get to go today.
On a personal note, I think this post came at the right time. With the Crunch currently tied for last place in the Eastern Conference, and with our woes well documented here, it was refreshing this week to get a reminder of why I continue to love it even while it breaks my heart.
Well, okay, maybe that last was a little dramatic. But...only a little.
So, why do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
One of the top things in this world that can make me smile is the sound of a puck hitting into the boards. It sounds romanticized, perhaps, but the sharp crack that accompanies such an event means one very simple thing: I'm home.
The Fan/Player Relationship
I'm pretty sure every hockey fan in the world has seen the following video by now, but if you haven't, enjoy the sweetness (or if you have, enjoy it again):
That moment, that one right there where the unbridled joy breaks through because a child's favorite player acknowledged him with a small wave, is why I love this sport.
Hockey players just seem to have better relationships with their fans than those who play other sports. Maybe I feel that way because I came to love hockey through the American Hockey League, where players are quite accessible to fans. Maybe it's because hockey fans tend to be right on top of the glass when they watch their team play, so it's easier for the players to notice them and their reactions. Or maybe it's because most hockey organizations, and therefore most players, make fans a priority. Maybe it's a combination of all of that, and/or more.
Whatever it is, hockey players just seem to understand their link to their fans better than those who play other sports. The bonds that develop between fans and their hockey team run deep. Those bonds, in many cases, are what keep fans coming back for more.
Hockey organizations and players genuinely know how to have fun, and they're not afraid to share that fun with their fans and the rest of the world. Observe:
Syracuse Crunch forward Eric Neilson dresses as a gingerbread man for the entirety of the Syracuse Crunch season ticket holder/sponsor Christmas party and then nails a fellow player in the face with a pie in front of everyone because...hockey. (via Syracuse Crunch):
Members of the Syracuse Crunch show off their vocal talents because...hockey. (via Syracuse Crunch):
Members of the Syracuse Crunch Fear the Beard because...hockey. (via Syracuse Crunch):
Members of the Syracuse Crunch show their love for their city, their fans, and each other because...hockey. (via Syracuse Crunch):
Nearly every team will have examples of things like this out there somewhere, and the videos here don't even take into consideration the in-game promotions, events and giveaways that happen in practically every building during games. Hockey organizations and their players are creative out of necessity, but they're also creative because they just like to have fun.
I love hockey merchandise. My friends like to joke that I only have one "mode" on the weekends when it comes to my wardrobe: Syracuse Crunch Mode. That's it. I go from one Crunch shirt to the next on Saturdays and Sundays and, if there's a home game, I make sure to throw on a game-worn jersey before I go out the door. I have quite a bit of Crunch merchandise from the past ten years, and I still display and/or wear it all with pride. Having my team's logo on my clothes, my hats, my scarves, my key chain...it says that I belong somewhere. It says that I am passionate about something. It says that I'm proud to be a Crunch fan, in good times and in bad, end of story.
There is Always Something More to Learn
I fell into hockey at a rather late age. I was a sophomore in college when I saw my first live hockey game, so I was not one of those who grew up with the sport. I had seen a few movies based around hockey, but much about real hockey was brand new to me.
It was fun learning about the game, the rules, and why players did what they did at certain times. For instance, trying to figure out why a goalie would suddenly race to the bench in the middle of a period was more challenging when I first started watching than I might like to admit. What can happen during delayed penalties was one of those things I had to learn about.
While I enjoyed taking in all of that initial information immensely, I'm still learning about the sport ten years later. We all know that hockey equipment is always evolving, and equipment changes affect the way the game is played,. The rules change, and those changes create new things to take note of. But, learning about hockey goes beyond changes in equipment or changes in the rule book. I'm trying to become more aware of stats and what they can say about what's happening or not happening. Even the players themselves can teach me something, as every player comes with a specific way he (or she) plays the game. Watching those players, watching guys like Radko Gudas, can change the way a person looks at the sport.
Hockey lives and breathes, and I love it for that.