Friday, February 04, 2011

Ice Hockey

Commentator #1: "For the Senators to make the play-offs, they'll have to win 24 of the next 32 matches. Yes, that could happen. Just like the next time my phone rings, it could be Scarlett Johansson."

*cell phone rings in the background*

Commentator #2: "I think that's Scarlett calling."

Most sports involve chasing something around, passing it to teammates and placing it in a predesignated place, upon which time a point is scored. This task is made considerably more difficult by the presence of an opposing team who are trying to do the same thing in the opposite direction. All else equal, the superior team should prevail, the anticipated satisfaction of which is the motivating factor to compete.
Ice hockey has all of these identifying features and involves a vulcanized rubber puck, with skaters using special paddles in an ice rink that is disproportionately small for the speeds involved. The result is a beautiful orgy of precise collisions.

I had seen a couple of games on television here, but had various motivations for seeing a game in real life. Those motivations included the fact that I could then claim to have seen a game in real life, and so that my Canadian friends would feel more at ease with me in future engagements. If you want to make friends with a Korean, you compose and dedicate a song to the unending deliciousness of Korean food, and for Canadians you talk about hockey.

Fortunately, the University of Ottawa student union sent out a coupon password to everyone associated with the university. Bao got the email and sent it to me, and we all got tickets for $20 each. The password was 'Union.'

I would have preferred a secret handshake myself.

The Canadians love their ice hockey as much as fat men love beer. Not all fat men love beer, and not all Canadians love ice hockey, so I think the analogy is accurate. But I guess a more accurate one would be that ice hockey-loving Canadians love ice hockey as much as fat, beer-loving men love beer.

One of the biggest things I like about going to sports events is to consume junk food under the convenient excuse that it's the only thing for sale.

And packing your own cucumber sandwiches or couscous salad to see an ice hockey game just wouldn't be right.

I'm now a big fan of ice hockey and my favourite team is the Ottawa Senators, even though they've lost 13 of the past 14 games this season. There's only one team lower than them on the ladder now, and that's the most despised team in the NHL, the Islanders. And I'm not just saying they're despised to make the Senators look better.

There was actually a poll on TV, asking viewers which team they like the least.
The rules for violence in ice hockey are somewhat bewildering. Players are allowed to bump, prod and decapitate each other, while the referee's job is to make it seem like everything is under control. Knocking a stationary player off their feet is called 'checking.'
As in, "I was just checking to see if you could keep your balance."

But going on a rampage using your stick as a baton is generally frowned upon, and will land you in the naughty box for 120 whole seconds.

The match commentators will use all manner of superlatives to describe a testosterone-charged confrontation between two players from opposing teams. They'll say things like "Seems like those two are having a chat."
I'm no lip reader, but the zoomed-in camera views appear to reveal the use of expletives.

One thing I find fascinating is that the Ottawa team have named themselves The Senators. Judging from their behaviour while resolving disputes within the rink, that would be akin to a professional WWF wrestler calling himself The Diplomat.

But then again, the psychology behind sports team names in general is quite interesting. Certain animals are more preferred than others, but it isn't clearly logical. Names like The Sharks, The Wolves or The Tigers are just fine. We would assume it's because of the attributes that they'd like to be renowned for. But there are plenty of other fine animals that have important distinctions.

For example, one could name their team as The Chimpanzees (for intelligence), The Armadillos (impenetrable defense) or The Barnacles (proportionally large gonads).

The game itself is composed of three - twenty minute quarters, affirming my perception that some North Americans are bad at maths. Or math.
During the breaktimes, one can tour the outer area of the stands, which are coincidentally stockpiled with merchandise and overpriced junk food. I was about to purchase a 100g packet of peanut M&Ms, with approximately 20 pieces in it, before being shocked and politely rejecting the requested price of seven Canadian dollars.

A zoomed-in view of the thoughts in my mind would reveal the use of expletives.

While professional ice hockey players travel at speeds of around 40 kilometres per hour, Ji-Young asks an impressive 20 questions about the game per minute.

"Where is the puck?"
"What is the score?"
"How much time is left?"

I thoroughly enjoyed the match, even though we lost 3:2. And on Youtube I've recently discovered a goldmine of various ice hockey clips.

While I have no doubt that ice hockey has great sportsmanship involved, I think that it perhaps isn't the best sport for exemplary behaviour. Therefore, I suggest the creation of a new and alternative game.
We can call it 'Nice Hockey.'

It would be similar to ice hockey, but with only three players on each team. The ball would be made of polystyrene or papier-mâché. Whenever two players on opposing teams come within 2 metres of each other and the ball, the game is paused. The two players then do a Rock, Scissors, Paper, to determine who gets possession of the ball. We'll call that Entrustment. So the newly Entrusted player is then given three seconds to leave the area and score a goal. Of course, there is no goalie, but the lightness of the polystyrene ball would make it difficult to go very far. To slow things down even more, it's played on a grassy soccer field in spring and all players have to hop on one leg.

Sounds like a fine game to me. There would also be less physical injuries.

So, who's up for a game of Nice Hockey?


ChantaleP said...

Wow. Welcome to Canada! Hiarious post. Now all you need to do to REALLY enjoy and savour the game of hockey is spend your life's savings on a Montreal Canadiens ticket, eat poutine and enjoy the sights and beer-hogging sounds of ppl in the nosebleed section of the Bell Centre (occasionally more entertaining than the Habs losing to the Devils yet again). : ) It's just a hop skip and a highway away.

Eleonora said...

I just got curious... Is there a Korean hockey team at all?

ALECHO said...

Hey there! I went to my first Hockey game with my girlfriend the other day! We got to see the players fight ;) but, yea, my gf asked the same questions... "where's the puck?" "what is the score?" "how much time is left?" haha

Ellen said...

Ha ha. You're a great writer and funny. Thanks for the smile.