I Heart Hockey

Baseball used to be my thing. Growing up, Grandpa would get tickets from work for right behind home plate that he shared with the family, and Dad obtained some magical unscrambler box that let us watch all the Minnesota Twins games, because home games are not televised on regular TV. I was the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins’ biggest fan, long before they were the World Champions.

Number fourteen, most awesome first baseman Kent Hrbek was my favorite player, and you know I was watching when he hit that grand slam during the world series and jogged around the bases with his arms in the air like Superman. The opposing team’s coach had called my team “a bunch of big, slow, white guys” in the papers. That might have been true, you didn’t catch them stealing bases too often, but they were some big, slow, HOMERUN HITTING white guys, so it worked out fine.

I spent a fair amount of time playing catch with myself in the yard during my baseball years. I would throw the ball into the air as hard as I could and then announce the play like Herb Carneal, the man who called all the Twins games of my childhood.

“It’s a looong fly ball to center field, Kirby’s camping under it…waiting…and he MAKES the catch! Three up three down, Blyleven has done it again.”

One time Mom told a man who happened to be walking by our campsite at a state park while I was calling an imaginary game to “Just ignore her”.

My sister Tash and I applied every year to be bat girls, but alas, our post cards were never chosen. I never missed a game if I could help it. Mom would send us to bed and I would turn on my clock radio and hide it under my pillow and I would live and die on every pitch until the game was over.

My first night at Rax, as I was following around my trainer, two guys in the back room were talking about the upcoming Twins game and whether or not the pitcher was going to be able to do it.

“Not with an ERA of like 11,” I said.

They both looked at me, surprised.

“A girl who knows an ERA,” one of them said, “huh.”

(ERA= Earned Run Average) I read the MN Twins baseballs stats in the paper every single morning.

When the MN Twins won the 1987 World Series, I was fifteen. There was going to be a big reception and parade and so I called up my aunt, because I knew my parents wouldn’t be able to take me (My parents had also a five and three-year-old) and she and my Uncle C agreed to take my sister Tash and I to Metrodome for the celebration.

All I can tell you about it is that it was so loud it made me feel crazy, and although I cheered as loudly as the rest of them, I was kind of glad to get out of there. The people watching at home on TV had better view than I did, which is precisely what Bunny told me the first time I took her to a Twins game. (She was NOT impressed)

I got older and busier and eventually there came a time when I hardly knew who the Twins players were, anymore. I was always still there for the big games, like the million and one playoff games we lost to the Yankees, cheering the Twins on, but their day to day workings were no longer something I paid attention to. I didn’t know any ERA’s.
Baseball was the only sport I watched, or listened to on the radio, so when I quit living for baseball I basically quit watching sports altogether.

Then years later I met J, and he was a hockey fan. We watched a couple of games together. I took a crash course in hockey rules before we went to hockey game when we’d been dating for a few months, and gave J hockey tickets for his birthday. We watched an Olympic Hockey game.

And then I was hooked.

I keep my eye on the hockey schedule and if there is a hockey game on then I “have plans” whenever possible. (The exception being family events like birthday parties but I’m still checking the score on my phone).

“I think you like hockey more than me,” J said, and I know it isn’t true but also, I DO like hockey.

Except for the fighting part. I really hate that part. Like can’t we all get a grip on our tempers and just play hockey? I understand the hits and checks, the whole point is to knock someone off the puck which actually does something for the game. I like it when no one gets hurt because of a check, but at least there is an acceptable motive. I do not think there is any reason why anyone on the ice deserves a fist to the head. It’s the exact opposite of good sportsmanship. When we’re at the arena, and a fight breaks out and everyone gets to their feet and cheers for our guy, I am the one rolling my eyes like I am surrounded by imbeciles and choosing not to look. (In case you ever see me on TV)

I watch all the Wild games possible, and when Spring hits it’s playoff time. There is no better hockey than playoff hockey. College playoff hockey, Olympic hockey, NHL playoff hockey, even high school playoff hockey in MN. And because there are so many NHL teams when playoff season starts, there is a game or two on every single night. I have to still do things like laundry and grocery shop, but I do my best to work it in all around the games I want to watch.

(Bunny finds playoff season very annoying, “She watches hockey like EVERY DAY” she tells people. I just shrug and smile, what can I say, I like hockey, ok?)

Last year, on our wedding day, there was a late west coast Wild game scheduled. When the guests had all finished with dinner and mingling and gone home, and we’d cleaned up and loaded everything we needed to, we headed over to the hotel we were staying at, which was just down the road. It was almost ten o’clock, but it was just in time for the Wild game.

We changed out of our wedding finery and into our comfy clothes and sat on the sofa and put our feet up on the ottoman and turned on the Wild game. We watched the game and opened all the cards that people had given us. (Even though we said NO GIFTS!) It was a great way to transition from all the hustle and bustle of the last few days, to unwind and relax.

And then we shut the TV off because, you know, JUST MARRIED.

I like the goalies in hockey. I think it’s because I feel for them. Bunny used to play goalie in soccer, and even though she stopped a lot of balls, went out of her way, got her fingers stepped on, and rolled and dove whenever necessary, there would always be the ones that got through and it would break my heart to see her disappointment in herself. There were some girls who couldn’t play goalie because they would cry when someone scored- Bunny wasn’t one of the criers, she liked playing goalie, but I knew it bugged her just the same.

I’m sure it’s the same for hockey goalies. You make like 35 excellent saves but two get through, and maybe one was in the last three minutes of the game and it was the game winning goal for the other team. (Heartbreaker) I’m the one talking to the TV, telling the goalie that its ok. Goalies that lose their temper and break their stick when a goal goes in are not my favorite. (Here’s looking at you Jonathan Quick) I prefer the quiet hanging or shaking of the head, the resolve as they skate away to the corner, and then skate back to their goal and take their fight stance as if to say, “Try it again you bastards, try it again.” The quiet confidence of overcoming a defeat, all in thirty seconds time.

That’s why, at the end of the game, all the players go over and greet the goalie. Bang him on the head, say a few words, thank him for his important role, knowing they couldn’t do it without him. You can win a game without your star center-man, or wing or D guy, but you can’t win without a goalie.

Quite a few years ago now, J and I watched an Olympic game where Roberto Luongo was the goalie for the Canadian team. I was like “What a cool name ‘ROBERTO LUONGO’.”

“I’m getting a little tired of hearing, “Luongo makes the save!” J said.

J does not believe in rooting for Canadian teams because, I quote, “I am an American”. I just thought the goalie’s name was cool. (And, also, P.S. Canada won.)

Since then, I’ve been keeping track of goalies with cool names. Here is a current list of my favorite cool goalie names:

Antti Niemi                    (Finnish, Montreal Canadiens)
Tuukka Rask                 (Finnish, Boston Bruins)
Pekka Renne                 (Finnish, Nashville Predators)
Roberto Luongo           (Canadian, Florida Panthers)
Marc-Andre Fleury     (French Canadian, Vegas Golden Knights)

And, of course, I cannot leave out Devan Dubnyk (DOUBLE D), our MN Wild goalie. (Also from Canada). His name is cool because every time he makes a save everyone is like “DOOOOOOOOOB!”, and you even hear it when we’re not playing at home. Poor Alex Stalock our back-up goaltender is also a very good goalie and deserves a cheer, but his name is not conducive to a crowd chant.

Those are some cool names, right? Feel free to use them for your future pets or children. Seriously, imagine your two dogs or two cats or two hamsters named Pekka and Tuuka (Pronounced Peck-a and Too-ka)- so cute!

Recently, I saw my old baseball favorite Kent Hrbek in a commercial while I was watching a hockey game. I felt kind of guilty when he appeared on my screen, for forgoing my love of baseball for hockey.

Playoff hockey season runs right over baseball home opener and the first months of baseball season.  I have to choose.

I choose hockey.

(Sorry Kent Hrbek)


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