The National Hockey League season began last week and I got for the second time to see the Stanley Cup and watch a championship banner being raised on an opening night. I’ve been watching hockey in my home town since before there was a NHL team in my home town. I saw a pro AHL hockey game before I saw a MLB baseball or NHL football game. And I even understand most of the rules.
Hockey is the perfect sport. It has the grace of skating, the power of football, the strategy of soccer, and the speed of Formula One racing. Hockey fans are engaged with the play on the ice. The pace of the game means most minutes are spent watching the action. Without stoppages between each play and possession change there are few opportunities for bad behavior. I defy anybody to go to a hockey game and not have a good time. In the words of hockey Hall of Famer “Badger” Bob Johnson, every day is “a great day for hockey!”
It’s been great days for hockey since the 1920s when the NHL fielded ten teams. Because of the Great Depression and World War II, several of the original teams folded or suspended operation. By 1942 only six teams remained and are today considered the NHL’s Original Six – Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs, all still playing. In 1967 the NHL undertook a major expansion and added six more franchises, the Next Six or Second Six – California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues. The Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis teams continue to play in the NHL. The California Seals originally out of Oakland, California moved to Cleveland in 1976 and played as the Barons until they ceased operations in 1978. The Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas and changed their name to the Stars. Today the NHL consists of thirty teams across the United States and Canada.
Just because the action stays on the ice doesn’t mean that hockey fans don’t bring their own fanaticisms to the rink and don’t have just as many of them outside of the games. For years there was an enthusiast who sat somewhere behind me who began early in the game and continued throughout the 60 minutes of play exhorting the home team to “bury the biscuit!” So persistent was he in his chanting that we dubbed him Barry the Biscuit. I didn’t hear his cry last week at the opener. Perhaps he has given up his song. Or perhaps because I changed my seats I just wasn’t within hearing range although my daughter claims she even heard him on a televised gamed.
Over the weekend I got one of what seems a weekly hockey catalog in the mail. Each one can be counted on to display replica game jerseys (or sweaters as hockey aficionado prefer), shirts, caps, jackets, cards, pucks, and sticks. Over the year more – um relaxed apparel has been featured including tank-tops, pajamas, robes, even swimwear. Perhaps they’ve always been available and I just missed them but this year, in quite a prominent spot just opposite the order form, was a full page of intimate apparel including women and men (yes, men) thongs. Hmm. I suppose somewhere for someone it’s a great night for hockey.
That’s what I think. Really. How ‘bout you?