No real surprise that after an extensive and well orchestrated game of legal chicken, NHL sell-outs have resumed as planned. Apologies were published, overpriced swag was temporarily reduced in price, and we’re all back in the arena like nothing happened. Remember when you were pissed? Yeah, I do too.
In my anger, I set DirecTV to record all the opening day games. I researched what games were on when I was traveling to NHL cities. In my fury, I wore my Montreal Canadiens jersey all opening day weekend. Never again will I… Wait, what am I mad about?
Hockey is back, hockey will make a shit ton of money, and you’re the source of that money and if you’re not, if you don’t love hockey like me, I offer a brief primer to appreciating the game.
Hockey is best watched in person. As I said before, the game shines when you’re in the arena because you have the maximum amount of pixels. Hockey is fast and newcomers to the game are confused when they see it on TV because they think that you have watch the puck to watch the game and while HD has vastly improved the puck-seeing-situation, the best way to first understand the game is live.
NHL arenas are relatively small and even in crappy nosebleed seats, there is a sense of being near and a part of the game. In baseball and football games, when I’m in crap seats, I end up watching the Jumbotron and - fact - I can watch TV at home. Distance from the field, distance from those little colored blobs running around the field means I don’t feel a connection with the game - there is no relationship. While it is a illusion based on proximity, an arena ice hockey game feels… cozy. It’s just you and 15,000 of your closet friends.
HD TV has been good to hockey. As I mentioned, HD gives you a better chance to track the game via the puck, but if you’ve taken my advice and seen a few games in person, you understand that the best way to watch this ultra-fast game is to watch the players. Unless you’re on the rink, a constant appreciation of puck location is less important than the story told by the movements and positions of the players. Watching hockey means not looking for the puck, it means watching two or three players - at once - and learning to notice, hey, if he can just pass the puck because, SWEET, that’s a break-out….
Like any good sport, there’s an on-going narrative to be discovered within the game. Your appreciation of the game will increase exponentially when you notice that #11 is clearly pissed at #29 and he is just waiting for the right moment to line him up on the boards. Yeah, ouch, just like that. You can half-watch any sport on TV, but hockey is moving so fast, failure to watch the whole game means missing essential parts of the story and, contradicting an earlier post of mine, the clarity of HD is the next best thing to being there.
My final advice. Play hockey. I don’t care if you’re 31 and never skated. Find a way to get ice or roller blades on your feet and a stick in your hand. You’re awful. It doesn’t matter. Knock the puck around on the ice or the asphalt and appreciate for a moment what is going on in that arena. These are guys are moving faster than you can imagine, they’re doing amongst other players traveling at similar velocity with a stick in their hands, and, while they’re doing all of this, a vulcanized rubber puck crazily dances in front of them.
It’s no surprise the arenas are full even though we should be pissed. It’s a great game and I’m looking forward to writing about every single pixel.