The 25th in our 118-part series, and 3rd in our 6-part miniseries.
December hockey is when the novelty’s gone. The season is in full swing, the guys who are having good seasons have asserted themselves, the guys who are underachieving are clearly already doing so, the teams that are tanking huge are already well-established as bottom feeders, and the law of averages is catching up to the teams that sprinted out of the blocks. December is when we only first start looking at the standings but we’re not paying close attention quite yet — the season’s not even at the midway point. The intensity is building, but it’s still fairly relaxed. It’s also the first time in the season that it’s really feeling like hockey outside. It’s getting wicked cold, and it’s dark early, and it’s always reminiscent of the brutal, windswept trips we used to take across the Meadowlands parking lots.
December hockey is also, necessarily, shaded by our attitude about December in general. Which is to say, it’s a bacchanal of holiday festivities. Games on the TV are accompanied by all variety of cookies, and hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. The living room of stately IPB Manor is bedecked with seasonal cross stitching, family heirloom decorations (even the worst hockey game takes on a happy glow when the beaded felt “12 Days of Christmas” panels Boomer and our grandmother made in the early ’80s are hanging in the picture window), and dozens of goofy advent calendars. And the whole place smells of Christmas tree. We realize the Christmas element is hardly universal, but for us, it’s part and parcel with December hockey.