As the puck is set to drop on a new hockey season, hope floats high for fans of the game. For those lucky enough to have grown up surrounded by hockey, the sounds of steel cracking through fresh ice, the crisp smack of a puck as it meets an outstretched stick, and the rattle of boards as players fight for the puck bring back memories of playing – or watching – games in small, cold arenas scattered across the country side.
To this day, as I pass hockey rinks I remember the passion for the sport I had as a kid. The sheer joy you’d have as you lace up your skates for the first game of a season. The nervous excitement you feel as you take those first steps out of the dressing room. And, the relief you feel as your skates hit the clean ice.
The professional players we admire from our couches and arm chairs feel these same emotions as they get set to start the NHL season. As game time approaches, they’ll look across the dressing room and see familiar faces and those new to the group. Each face spotted with a hint on nervousness.
A passionate plea from the coaching staff to play as a group, sacrifice individualism, and treat each other as brothers builds the nervous excitement from their belly. Their legs act as springs as they bounce to their feet from their locker room stall, they grab their stick, and march towards the ice.
This is hockey. No matter your age, skill level, nor cap-number.
No other sport moves with the same skill and precision as hockey. No other sport forces you to balance on razor sharp edges as you whisk past defenders.
Tell the story of hockey from the perspective of a four-year-old as he slides his gloves on and picks up his stick. As they wobble across the ice carving crescent moons in their path as they dream of their favourite player. Hockey is a dream for that four-year-old; a dream where they win the Stanley Cup, bring it home and celebrate with their family who supported them throughout the years.
I’ll never play a game in the NHL, but hockey is engrained in my life and in my culture. Professionals still play the game they loved as a four-year-old and experience the rollercoaster of emotions before each season starts.
My favourite team might not win many games, but they’re still my team. They don’t have to be at the top of the standings for me to cheer. My favourite player won’t don sweater of the team I follow religiously. Neither of that matters, because the game is part of me.
As I sit in my arm chair to watch the puck drop on a new season, the dream I had as a four-year-old is sure to return. It is just a game, but it speaks to me. It’s not the marketing done by the NHL – because that still needs help – it’s the culture I grew up with, the family experience I’ve had, and the dreams I still have.
This is hockey. This is part of the culture I’ve experienced.