Perhaps I was lazy when it came to hockey. We ran in different circles. I was a California girl who loved being outside in the sun and hockey only wanted to hide itself in a cold, dark arena. I was of the school of thought that athletes should have all their teeth; hockey had a different idea. I rolled my eyes at the thought of fights during a game; hockey wanted to beat the heck out of anyone who gave it a dirty look. I guess we just never really saw eye-to-eye.
And then one day something happened. I caught a glimpse of postseason hockey and it was love at first sight. Call me fair-weather, but maybe a little excitement is what a fan needs to become hooked on a team. At any rate, I couldn’t get enough of the Sharks. I was glued to my TV and even wearing teal to work.
Suddenly, with horror, I realized how dense I was on the subject of hockey. I grew up watching baseball and playing soccer and basketball. The rules and strategy are engrained in me. They are completely second nature. But in hockey, everything is a little bit different. It’s similar to learning Spanish, or because we’re talking hockey, French. You recognize the root of the word, but it’s not quite the same. The basic plays are similar to sports I already know, just masked under different terms. For example, it’s not a breakaway, it’s a rush. It’s not a press, it’s a forecheck.
I’ve always prided myself on my sports knowledge so during the offseason, I studied and studied hard. I barely scratched the surface, but I’ve learned the lingo. I can now confidently say the words “blueliner” (a term for a defenseman), “neutral zone” (that area of the ice in between the two blue lines), “crease” (the area in front of the goal that can’t decide if it’s a circle or a square), “sweater” (what we outsiders would call a hockey jersey) and “major” (a five-minute penalty for the big offenses, the more typical “minor” is only two minutes). See how well I just did that? (On a related note, did you know that there are websites that can help dummies like me learn hockey definitions?) I learned who was on each line and what that meant, only to watch Todd McLellan completely mix them all up and make me start all over again. Thanks a lot Todd. I learned about the different penalties and man, are there a lot! (We’ll go over that next time).
Once I began to understand what made hockey tick, my relationship with it strengthened. The Bay Area isn’t really a so-called “hockey town,” but why can’t it be? Hockey’s a gritty sport made up of scrappy players. It’s fast paced and exciting. It’s about time we embrace the team that has been in our neighborhood for 20 years. I’ve decided to finally dedicate myself to becoming a full-fledged, card-carrying, sweater-wearing member of Team Teal. It’s going to take a lot more work, but I’m ready to take the plunge. Join me won’t you? And if you get confused by those foreign terms spoken with Canadian accents, here’s a good dictionary.