We took Linda’s family (Emily, Dave, Beth, Megan & Sean) to our 2nd (annual?) Providence Bruin’s (AHL) hockey game Sunday afternoon (it’s not Lent yet!). Great seats for a reasonable price. And, just outside our area was the beer vendor with Harp and Smithwick on tap!
I did not grow up with hockey as a passion. In fact, I do not recall knowing about hockey existing in California in the 60’s and 70’s. Linda, on the other hand, grew up within range of the Boston Bruins. She tells stories about when she first lived in the D. C. area, going to the (old) Cap. Center to see the Washington Capitol’s play many of the legendary hockey teams: Bruins, Flyers, Red Wings, Canadiens, et al. This was my hockey education zone in the earlier years of our marriage (marriage is about learning of your partner’s passions, right?). Linda taught me all that I know about 2 line passes and icing. We often use hockey analogies when discussing goats these days, such as “Nubie tried to cross check me, but I slammed him into the boards…”).
I have my ambivalences about sports, beyond the expense of tickets (we stopped attending Cap’s games when they moved to the whatever-corporate-sponsor stadium with prices 3 to 4 times those at the Cap Center). Maybe the lessons are about the team is more important than the individual players; skills take practice to hone; pushing one to his or her limits then beyond… I see: destroying someone else is the only way to succeed; get away with what you can when the ref is looking the other way; fighting is okay until your opponent is down… Of course, how forcefully can 200+ lbs guy on skate throw punches before falling over?
I think that sports have become substitutes, especially in a secular society, for rituals sacrifices previous reserved for religious rituals. We go to the game knowing that the outcome will be that some players demonstrate skillful manipulation of the puck, some will become frustrated, some will end up in the penalty box, and usually one team will have more points than the other. At what price do we attend these events? Must we follow these rituals? Is the price of sports that we perpetuate the violence that seems horribly common in our society? Or, do we appease more violence by giving thousands of spectators an outlet through the sacrifice of an occasional player? I doubt that few others in the audience had such thoughts broken when a player was boarded and fell still on the ice as the play moved to the other end of the ice, until the ref whistled the play ended.
The teams separated. The athletic trainers and EMS came out to assess. His team surrounded their fallen teammate. We waited, watched the lack of movement, and speculated. This is when you do not want to work in health care, because you know too well what may be occurring. After several minutes, he is rolled to lie on the body board and secured before six or more lift him to the stretcher for transport to the hospital. The offending team gets a 5 minute major (penalty); the offending player leaves with a game misconduct (penalty); the second period resumes. Fans go for more beer.
Is his transport to the hospital precautionary? Has one bad hit ended his season or career? This year’s football season seemed dominated by reports of bad hits and awareness of the long term neural functioning of players after multiple concussions. Monday’s paper did not report the game, but did a have an article about a Chicago Blackhawk’s former ‘enforcer’ player dying this past year, at age 45, of heart failure. His brain was donated to a research center which is studying the brains of deceased athletes to determine the frequency and extent of cumulative trauma encephalopathy. How do we excel without destroying ourselves? In this case, Beth searched the internet and found the teams local paper reporting that he was released from the hospital to return home with his team.
Maybe I will ponder these questions and find an answer by the 3rd (annual?) hockey game. Maybe not. As my friend Andy would say, “Keep your stick on the ice.”