Friday, May 6, 2011

Observations on Hockey and the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Poster of the Stanley Cup in NHL hockey

As a Canadian, I love my hockey and support my local team passionately. And the Stanley Cup playoffs are a time of excitement; it is the accumulation and climax of the entire season. This is what it all boils down to every year; it is “do or die” - well metaphorically speaking - for the competing teams that are on the mythic quest for Lord Stanley's Cup. And that particular Grail-like object is a fountain of pride and source of celebration not only for the team, but for the whole city, and from our Canadian view, even a rallying point for the whole nation.

But getting there is a grueling and sometimes even gruesome process. Players need stamina and willpower. It is not only about skills at this stage, but mostly about mindset in terms of discipline and work ethic. You must want it more than anything else. And that is what makes the playoffs so exciting, at least as long as you have a team to cheer for.

Hockey is not only about the teams and players; it is mostly about us, the spectators and die-hard fans who are glued anxiously to the screens (we can't afford the live games). We high-five each other and jump up and down when our team has performed well; we dissect, analyze and philosophize the game as if it were a political speech or a literary essay, and - we feel down in the dumps when our team has lost.

At this stage, there is equality to a degree rarely seen in everyday life. We all gather around to celebrate and share the passion regardless of education, profession, or social status. The bars are filled with all sorts of people, such as bums, intellectuals, and intellectual bums. It is a time when we are most united around a common cause, namely to celebrate or feel the pain together.

Strangely, it is often an emotionally draining process. Although I have not played myself, just worrying about the playoffs game after game, getting in there to egg on my team, I feel that I have also become part of the process, the ups and downs toward the rocky path of victory. Indeed, I have also worked hard and shared the load and deserve to bask in the light of glory.

It is very interesting how sports affect our psychology and to a large extent our confidence. When our team does well, we feel more positive and are more certain about ourselves; the opposite occurs when it comes to defeat. Hardcore fans might even dip into a brief state of depression when things are going horribly wrong.

Sometimes you can even use hockey terminology to explain your performance in life. For example, you can bounce back after a mediocre “play” at work. You can give it your all to achieve certain goals (no pun intended!) and not be discouraged or swayed by setbacks.

In the end, one can say hockey, especially during crucial times like the playoffs, becomes a metaphor. It is also an attitude, albeit a scrappy one that proudly faces challenges and shakes off negative experiences like flies; you put away a bad day, shake it off and fully focus on the new tasks at hand. You follow the sports formula: Step up and play better the next time around.

And yes, after all, it builds not only character but also community; hockey news becomes the next-day topic at work, on the bus, in the elevator. For a brief time, the community is united around a common purpose, to support their local team and to take the goals alongside with the hits, the good with the bad.


FishHawk said...

My brother and I spent hours upon hours playing a hockey game that was similar to foosball, only with the levers that controlled the players being on the ends. Later on, I really got into playing air hockey whenever I could find a table. So, does this qualify me as being a hockey player, and if so, where do I go to get my retirement pension?

P.S.: GO BLUES! (It's probably way too late for that now--huh?)

Arashmania said...

I love air hockey and yes, it will make you a hockey player as well! The other day I slightly injured my knee at home, but it goes with the territory since it is playoff time!

I would play real hockey if only I could skate, so in the meantime I will have to imagine being a hockey player and live it vicariously...