Hockey Muse: Revenge of the Sieve

…or not.

The Buckeyes’ niche in my memory is fond; seeing them lose, I first listened to providers of pep music shout their ridiculous insults. Time went on, but seeing them get destroyed reminds me; some cruel insults, to my gleeful delight never get old. (Though this time, some self-censorship occurred during the concluding line. No problem. I know how it should go.)

The pep yells weren’t completely de rigueur; this competition, unlike previous ones, included them extolling whichever food (i.e. pretzels) they were enjoying. Plus, when the guy in the booth told us “One minute left in this period, one minute”, they responded by giving responding yells which prompted him to tell them “You’re welcome.” Fine, except they didn’t begin the proceedings by inquiring, “Hey, “ref”, how much time is left?” Silly omission. Oh well.

But the competition itself kept us interested. We scored quickly, the scorer’s eighth of the winter (to put her in first for our side). Then, one of the others served two minutes for hooking. She returned to the ice without incident. Concluding kills would be simple, one of ours duly went to the box.

Turns out, we scored then too. The scorer moved to the net by herself for her eighth of the winter (thus tying her for first). Soon enough, “full strength!” The pep crowd points out our strength is consistently full, five on the ice or six.

We scored the third time to begin the second; this, plus the netminders switching ends, prompted yet more snicker-worthy insults. Closer to the end of the second, I didn’t think the puck crossed their line, but the guy in the box thought it did. So, it’s someone else’s eighth for us, tying her…well, you get it by now.

“FIX” is how the reverse of one ref’s jersey looks. The result is predetermined? Oops.

The third begins with less excitement. Oh well, we don’t need to score twice in every period. Or do we? There’s our fifth, with five minutes left…

“One minute left,” once more, with no preceding question. But it’s fine. With forty-two seconds left, we score once more.

The insults write themselves sometimes.

e rigueur

My First NHL Trip

It was a long wait from introducing L.A.’s starting six until you found out who was starting for Chicago, with lots of gimmicky digital lighting tricks. What was cool was turning off most lights, but turning on lights to show off Blackhawks championship flags. But it was a long buildup.

A board told you what was going on in far stadiums, including Giants’ runs…but it wasn’t Giants vs. (mascots also), but Giants vs. (location). That mascot is also a mascot of a squad that was busy playing in a rink!

I didn’t know a lot of what was going on. It looks as if a Blackhawks star got hurt. Didn’t know that.

Play would stop, and folks would work on that rink. Folks without much clothing. Which is odd–it’s cold out on rinks. I don’t think that’s as fun as, say, a band playing music (or shouting insults).

It was loud, with lots of cussing from fans by my chair. It was a high chair, with just a row until it was as high as you could go. I thought it was an okay way to look down, though, not too far from action. But I wasn’t focusing so much as to know “oh, that was a goal” for all four goals. I saw L.A.’s puck fly in, though, and fly right back out almost as quickly. And I saw Chicago’s last goal, if not #2 too. Catchy goal song. Not many lyrics, but that’s okay.

Riding back, I saw a sign for “introducing a world famous billy goat t-shirt”. What? How is it world famous if its introduction is right now?

The Hockey Muse Strikes Once More

“Be true to your school,” the song goes. The suggestion is nice, but is it useful? Such devotion is common, if not completely so. But we don’t need people to tell us how to cheer. Most of us will do so without prompting; others will be immune to prompting. So why bother?

I went to see college hockey for the first time in months, which is nothing weird–I tend to go to the rink just once or twice per winter. But this time, it’s different; I’m only in town for the long weekend. Luckily for me, the competitors don’t get this weekend off. Otherwise, when could I see them?

There’s no risk of untruthfulness, though–I didn’t switch to rooting for would-be opponents. Only indifference. It’s not my school I would be deserting, either. Growing up is perilous, whichever sport you follow–is it ridiculous to look up to heroes if you’re no longer younger? College sports supporters just hit this level of doubt more quickly, even if they go or went somewhere else.

So it’s not just the college you pick which cries out for your truthfulness in the end. It could be your onetime niche in the world–country, city, something defined subjectively but nevertheless luring you in with the promise of identity. Or something simpler–the ridiculous pep music with its historic insults. The legend whose picture rises on the edge of the building, who grew up blocks from where you did. The rink you go to so often. The people who go there with you, who love you. It’s enough to deserve truth.

It’s enough for me to cherish the opportunity to focus through the scoreless first period. To hook up to university wi-fi, Googling the school song’s lyrics. To cheer when they (we?) score in the second, then three more times in the third. Every time the light turns on (except once, when it looked like the others were definitely going to score, except for our netminder plucking it down) we sing out this wonderful reprise. By the end, it’s memorized.

The Hockey Muse Strikes

The schedule ends on Senior Night. There will be more hockey, of course. The Frozen Four is quite likely for us; the title could be clinched tonight. So it’s not truly the end, but close enough. For me, I know if I ever return to this rink, it won’t quite be like this. I’m no senior like those on the ice, but one period of my life will soon end. My rink will be wiped–not by some dude riding in circles, no, but it’ll be time to begin something new. I’m guessing it’ll be more difficult to root for these competitors in the future. I might not get to see them live.  But who knows?

The crowd here is often thin, but not tonight. I don’t mind being in line for tickets. It’s worth it to see other people out here. I buy rubber puck #359 for throwing onto the ice.

We honor the seniors, then begin. The opposition scores first. We spend minutes in the box, then more minutes. (Ten minutes out of the first twenty, but two sin-bin terms were both being served for some seconds.) Four on five, we’re down. Four on five, we’re down. Do netminders mind not being counted? Four on…ooh, four now. Five on four, we’re up! Time to tie it up. So we do. One-one.

Then the collision. I don’t see it, just notice it’s four on five once more. No news. But one of the visitors is down on the ice. She doesn’t get up.

Nothing occurs. Nothing but the voices in the crowd. The volume, I feel, should ebb, flow, die down, rise up. But there’s too much sound. It doesn’t go down. It just keeps going. Hockey here is not like this, not how I know it. I know the sound of stick hitting puck, the pep songs or peppers insulting the visitors. This undying murmur is wrong.

Most of the competitors come together on the edge of the rink. Two do not. They must count, now. Otherwise it is only the injury controlling the ice. So my eyes follow the closer of the two in circles. Distorted, stretched ones, but still circling, going nowhere. Kneeling now, blocking ghost shots. Close to ten minutes of this.

Then the stretcher goes off. We resume. More four on fives, but the period finishes 1-1.

Someone I remember once being ineligible due to coursework problems presents the prizes to our top student-competitors during the first intermission. Then it’s time for pep music. Listen to the drum pounding out of time. One of our offsides people crossed the blue line to find the puck is on the other side.

The second period goes more quickly. The home net switches with the visitors’. Now I see the letters between the shoulders of our visiting netminder. Her moniker reminds me of the visiting Buckeye who the pep performers mocked, the time I got to know the “sieve” song/insult. (“…lets the puck go by.”) Listen to the howling out of key. We score with eleven seconds left of five on four. The period winds down. “Hey, ref,” yell the pep crowd. “How much time is left?”

“One minute,” comes the booming voice from the press box microphone.

In the intermission, I throw my rubber puck onto the ice for some contest. It is nowhere close to the bullseye. I worry it won’t even hit the rink, stopping on the bench or on the floor. I don’t see it, but I’m told it does go to the ice. Its speed is right, but it turns to slide in the wrong direction.

Into the third period. It becomes 3-1 when it’s five on five like it should be. But not to worry, there is enough controversy. For me, too much. Two opponents seeming to fight, one on top of the other. The visitor whose helmet goes flying off. Our netminder, puck clutched tightly, protesting the stick which flew by.

But it ends quietly, up until the victory cheers. With eighty-nine seconds to go, it’s substitution time for the hosts. Let our senior end this one in the net.

This is the beginning of the rest of our lives.

“Commencement” signifies “beginning,” doesn’t it? How odd.

“Hey, ref, how much time is left?”

Don’t tell me.

I don’t need to know.