If you’ve never been to a hockey game – it doesn’t matter what level – get out to a rink near you. Whether it’s Coventry, Belfast, Toronto, Montreal, Madrid or Los Angeles – get out and enjoy a day at the warmest place in sports.
Warm you say? How can it be warm in a facility that houses ice? It’s not the temperature I refer to. It’s the people. It’s the camaraderie. It’s the ability to narrow divides, and the ability to bring opposing sides together.
You see, hockey people are gems. I can say that with some authority – because I have been around hockey people in Canada, the USA, and Europe. I have been lucky to play, and now work with some of the greatest hockey individuals around. I have looked into Roberto Luongo’s eyes after a horrible game three loss in the 2011 Stanley Cup. I could see the torment he suffered. Yet, he gave me his time. He smiled and was polite. I can tell you that hockey people are the best people to be around – even in defeat at the highest level.
I have chatted with Ben O’Connor of Team GB’s National side, after a 4-2 loss to France a few weeks back at the Olympic Qualifiers. The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, as it eliminated Team GB, and ended their 2014 Sochi Olympic dream. Yet, O’Connor and I spoke like old friends, we spoke of the tough defeat, we spoke of the love of the game, and how much he wanted to win for his country.
I mention these two instances because it’s easy to talk about how great someone is, or a group for that matter, when the going is good. I believe the true measure of a person or group, is how they handle the bad times. Yes, hockey people hate to lose – passionately. But, class is a term I will throw out there. 90% of hockey people are classy even in defeat. That’s not always the case at the highest levels of other games.
You will also find at your local rink a breed of individual who wants to have some banter. A breed of human that actually likes to talk to new people. Fans will chant and wind each other up, but you probably won’t be stabbed, or beaten within an inch of your life at your local rink. Sometimes, it can be heated, and sometimes that can be alcohol driven, but for the most part a hockey game is a safe haven. We have seen in the news this week football fans getting jumped and hospitalized. We have seen horrible fights and even riots surrounding opposing fans in other sports. In hockey, you’re more likely to meet a new drinking buddy at a rink, than engage in a battle royal with hooligans.
Hockey people are loyal too. I recently was thrown under the bus by a British ‘journalist’ who wrote an article about my play-by-play commentary on the Team GB Olympic Qualifiers in Latvia. He made reference to how he couldn’t make any sense of the game he was watching on TV. He said he looked to the commentators for guidance – where he said he found none. I didn’t pay much attention to the article, but many fans came forward to defend the sport, the team, and even the commentators. They were picking up for their National team, and those that had broadcast the games into their homes. Loyalty. Sure, some went over the top I learned later, but again 90% had the right intention.
My point is this – as human beings we like to be around kind, like minded people. We like loyalty – we like banter and a bit of fun. Most of all, we like to be entertained after a hard week of work. You will find all of these elements, and more, at your local rink. If you have some spare time this weekend, if you feel like a new experience, get out to a Braehead Clan game, check out a Belfast Giants game at the Odyssey. See a local minor league game in St. John’s, Halifax or Providence.
Trust me – you won’t be disappointed! You may even meet some new folks, and share in some camaraderie around the greatest game on ice.
You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce