We love this game because of its intricacies. There are so many moving parts that make up a team. We watch our favorite teams throughout the years. We watch favorite players come and go. We see new players take the reigns and move the franchise into its next phase. It's a never ending cycle, and win or lose, they're always YOUR team. We sit at home on the edge of our couches or with friends at a local restaurant. We share food and drinks, critiquing the game as if we should be the ones getting paid millions. When the game ends, we talk about the good old should-a, could-a, would-a's, then look at our schedules for the next game.
If we're lucky, we're at the game. If you're anything like me, you like to get there early. You get through the gates and stop for a drink and a snack. You work your way to your seat for warm-ups and watch as the players fine tune their skills; making fancy passes, picking corners and warming up the goalies. The horn goes, there's a final frenzy of pucks fired at the net, then they clear the ice. The zamboni's come out and circle the ice before finally leaving so the ice can set. The arena starts to fill. The crowd starts to get anxious. And finally, finally, the lights go down. The buzz from the crowd crescendos and the monitor shows highlights of our hometown team. The teams fly out onto the ice, getting one last stretch for their legs. The starting lineups find their way to their respective bluelines, the goaltenders to their respective nets. In Buffalo, we're lucky to have Mr. Doug Allen sing the U.S. and Canadian National Anthems. It may sound biased, but with all due respect to anthem singers around the league, I believe Dougie is the best. The anthems are the final gap between all of the build up, the anticipation before the puck finally drops. The crowds go nuts as the anthems finish and the teams put their helmets on. Finally, it's game time. The sounds of the game make it all the more incredible. Hearing the blades cut through the ice as someone flies down the ice. A tape to tape pass. The sound of a slapshot. When a puck hits the post. A big hit. The "Oooo's and Ahhhh's" of the crowd. The goal horn. It's a beautiful thing.
The only thing that tops physically being at a hockey game, is playing in one. There's nothing like the chill of the rink and the first time your skates hit the ice. The chatter on the ice, the bench and in the locker room is some of the most unique you will ever hear. Setting up a teammate for a goal or scoring one yourself is one of the greatest thrills you will ever feel, topped, of course, by winning a game or more importantly, a championship. If you're really lucky, you get to have your family and friends with you along the way for all of the long road trips and weekends in towns you would never visit otherwise. The game itself provides so many learning experiences about life and about yourself. You learn about teamwork, selflessness, sacrifice and accountability. There's more, but those are my favorites. Hockey is more than a game. It's a learning tool. It's a connection to your family and friends. It becomes, as the saying goes, a way of life. It may sound like I'm laying it on thick, giving hockey such high praise for what most would simply consider "life lessons". The thing is, it's been a huge part of my life as I know it is for so many other people. It brought me closer with my parents who came to every game and practice, no matter how early or late the start and regardless of what state or part of Canada it was in. They were always there and I love them for that. It led me to the Best Man in my wedding. It led me to my amazing, beautiful wife and her wonderful family. It's because of her support that this website is even here. When I was torn about it, she kept insisting it was a good idea. Now, I can only hope to prove her right. This is what hockey did for me. It created and bonded a family into something so much more than a sport. This is why we love the game.