I don’t know much about hockey.
I realize there’s a puck, for instance. And two goals. And a bunch of ice, with seemingly random lines all over it.
My greatest hockey moment came shortly before the San Jose Sharks played their first game in 1991. An office discussion led me to call the Sharks public relations department to ask whether it would be illegal to simply prop a massively obese man in front of the goal to serve as goalie.
“Well, Ken Dryden weighed about 220 pounds,” the person told me.
“No. I mean huge. I mean a 1,000-pound person. The kind that you need a forklift to remove from their home. Could you simply lay one of those people on the ice and block the entire goal?”
They checked with the league. Word came back that players simply had to be dressed in full uniform – which meant the house-sized man could conceivably be a goalie.
But no one has taken advantage of this obvious loophole in the rules. And I’ve watched very few games on TV over the past two decades.
But going to a hockey game – as I have done several times over the years – is an experience in both ignorance and awesomeness.
Ignorance: When I watch hockey, I understand what it’s like for all the people in my life who don’t follow baseball, basketball or football and are baffled by my interest. The passion of real hockey fans deserves respect.
Awesomeness: The inherent violence.
Last weekend, I watched a minor-league hockey game at the Stockton Arena with a group of friends from my church (didn’t Jesus walk on water? Isn’t ice just frozen water? Couldn’t you make the case that Jesus was the first hockey player?).
The hockey skills seemed good. I was impressed by the speed of the officials as they skated around. The goals (the Stockton Thunder beat the San Francisco Bulls, 4-0) were probably artistic to hockey insiders. The coaching and team play and even the player introductions were all probably well done.
But the violence made it memorable.
The beauty of hockey is that there are a lot of bodies slamming into each other – “checking.” The participants are willing, so there’s no need to feel bad about it – it’s like watching a demolition derby involving people.
And sometimes it’s like a trip to the zoo, as fans bang on the glass that surrounds the ice, shouting at players from the safety of their seats.
But the best part is when players fight.
In hockey, fights are allowed and even encouraged to burn off energy. And as long as the dustups involve just two combatants, the officials allow them to continue until one of them falls down – though penalties are handed out at the end. Players who join an ongoing fight are harshly penalized, so the one-on-one fights continue until somebody goes down.
In the third period of the game I attended, a fight erupted and suddenly there were five one-on-one fights (and there are only six players on the ice!) happening at the same time.
Five fights at once!
As the Christians around me screamed for blood – isn’t that what Jesus would do while watching hockey? – I stood and yelled, lost in the moment. I sarcastically shouted for some players to “stop dancing and start punching!” I screamed like a seventh-grader watching a schoolyard brawl.
The fights ended, penalties were handed out, opponents were booed and play resumed. The Thunder won. We drove home. I can’t recall any of the goals.
But the fights? The five one-on-one fights? That was awesome.
That’s what makes hockey great and that’s why I’m glad my church group went.
Feel free to pray for me.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.