воскресенье, 2 декабря 2012 г.


By Bruce Mills

October is not only a beautiful month but marks the precious yet fleeting overlap of hockey, baseball, basketball, and football.
~Jason Love

I was one fortunate kid, let me tell you. Growing up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, we never worried about traffic jams, unless you counted the deer crossing areas, or the occasional lineups to buy pastries at the Finnish bakery. The air was clear, the lakes cool and clean, and the scenery spectacular. If it weren't for the mosquitoes, you would have thought you had already made it to heaven.
Summers were spent playing baseball, and winters belonged to basketball. I loved those two sports with a passion that couldn't be matched, and spent many a day as the hero of my imaginary teams. And then one winter my father dug a hole in our back yard.

"What's Dad up to?" I asked Mom on a cold November day. He had borrowed a backhoe and was digging a very large hole behind our house.

"He decided he wants to put in an ice rink for the winter," she explained, with a bit of a sigh.

Well, my father never did anything small. This rink was nearly the size of a stadium facility, or at least if looked like that to my eight-year-old eyes. Dad got the volunteer fire department to come out and flood the area, and we had one of the biggest patches of ice short of Lake Superior. Coincidentally, that Christmas Santa brought us all skates as presents.

After getting over the initial wobbles (and cutting open my brother's lip with my blade on a bad fall), I started to really like the rink. Then Dad came home with some hockey sticks and a puck, and a new winter sport was born in our family. I found that this was not only a lot of fun, but using the stick really helped out my beginner's balance on the skates. I loved hockey!

But alas, basketball beckoned. My little town was crazy about basketball — even won two state titles back in the fifties — and there wasn't a local hockey team to be found within reasonable driving distance. So the hockey gear was stuffed into the back of my closet, and rarely considered. The ice rink was eventually filled back in, and my father moved on to building a ski lift down our back hill, which is a story for another day.

Years passed, and I went away to college. It wasn't until I arrived at Michigan Tech that I learned that they had won the NCAA Hockey Championship the previous year. I guess you could say that the locals and students were a bit excited. I didn't have a choice — once again hockey ruled the day! My roommate turned out to be a raving lunatic of a hockey fan, and he introduced me to the finer art of his own pre-game warm-up. We would stand behind the net and shove our faces against the glass, and as the practice shots ricocheted off the glass next to our heads, we tried to see who could last the longest without flinching.

Man, did I ever love going to those hockey games! We had a great scorer on the team named Zuke, and my favorite fan sign read, "Jesus Saves. But Zuke scores on the rebound!" Once our archrivals came to town, and a huge brawl broke out before the puck even dropped to start the game. It was the most incredible fight I ever witnessed. The officials just let them go at it until they all finally got too tired to keep swinging their arms. Everyone was fighting — even the goalies were pummeling each other. Well, as much as two men in all that protective gear could actually pummel. And once again, I loved hockey!

Then life happened, and I moved away from my beloved Michigan once I graduated from college. In Denver, the Broncos and football ruled the sports scene. Later, in Salt Lake City, it was the Jazz and the NBA. Hockey? Forget it!

Then I did something I never imagined in my life. I married a Canadian! And once again, hockey came back into my life, this time for good.

Looking back, it seems that each time I shoved hockey aside in my life, it found a way to creep back in. Now I stand up and scream like a crazy man, especially watching the Stanley Cup. I love the action, intensity and grace of the game. I love the speed, passing, checking, penalties, pain, fighting, scoring and winning. Yes, I'm an American with little experience playing the game, but I sure can appreciate the incredible skill of those who do.

So hockey, to you I say "Uncle." As much as I tried to ignore you and put you out of my life, you kept coming back, again and again. And for that, I thank you. Baseball? Too long and slow. Basketball? It's okay. But hockey? Now you're talking. Drop that puck and let 'er rip! What could be more wonderful?

I wonder what my wife would say if I start digging up her flower beds this fall?

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