After bundling up for the chilly rink, investing in a $1 cup of hot chocolate and momentarily confusing Bird Arena with Bob Wren Stadium (a wren is a type of bird — it is a reasonable mistake), I settled in for my first hockey game, and it didn’t take me long to decide that I really liked hockey.
I’m sure there are plenty of reasons to be a fan of hockey and attend a game, but for me it all comes down to one: violence.
The accepted, sanctioned violence in hockey is what makes watching the game so exciting. Forcefully ramming into an opponent is perfectly within the rules, fights break out for no apparent reason, and everyone is skating around at break-neck speeds with potentially lethal weapons strapped to their shoes. In hockey, there is only a thin line between a penalty and manslaughter.
The brutality is expected and simply attributed to the nature of the game, which is kind of terrific. The players just wind themselves up and then go flying all over the rink, colliding into each other and bouncing off the barricades until the ref blows a whistle and someone comes out to collect the gloves and broken sticks that have been strewn about the ice during the melee.
The hockey players don’t even blink when they get the daylights knocked out of them. They also seem delighted to participate in the defensive tactic known as body checking, which involves slamming one’s opponent as hard as possible up against the wall. The offender gets to exert his rage upon the enemy while the receiving player just has to stand there, face pinned against the Plexiglass, and take it.
What’s funny is that the violence is performed with a kind of nonchalance, as if it is not even a big deal to trip a member of the other team and watch him fall flat on his face. What is funnier still is that the crowd absolutely loves it when that happens. They are almost as happy to see a foe get hurt as they are to see their own team score.
It seems as though breaking the rules is as integral to the game as the rules themselves. The scant few fouls that are actually called have gruesome sounding names such as “slashing” and “spearing” and the punishment for doing these horrible things is that the offender is not allowed to play for usually about two minutes. That’s it! A two-minute timeout for attempted murder.
I think that is what appeals to me about hockey: It’s fast, fierce, intense, and there is lots of unapologetic and somewhat unnecessary fighting, which happens to be most of the same reasons why I liked the new James Bond movie. Some of it is deliberate action, and the rest is just violence for the sake of violence, which has extraordinary entertainment value.
Even though I certainly hope that no one gets seriously injured, watching several people come close — and not care — is incredibly fun. I might not know a puck from a peppermint patty, but I can still appreciate a game in which people revel in the suffering of others. Hockey is the kind of sport that is easy to love: the kind in which blood is often shed, and tears never are.
Haylee Pearl is a sophomore studying journalism, a novice sports viewer and a columnist for The Post. Is hockey better than Skyfall? Tell her what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.