This is the last submission we got for the fabulous Reasons You Love Hockey series, and we think it’s only fitting that it comes from our Devils buddy, Morgan. We’ve known Morgan for as long as we’ve been attending Devils games in person, so about 10 years now. Frankly, at this point, we can’t imagine being Devils fans without him and his unique insight (“I’d like to see Odelein traded to the moon for a microbe to be named later” being our personal favorite Morgan-ism). Our last year as season ticket holders was more about sitting up in the last row of the arena and hanging out with him than it was about watching the team (they weren’t doing much that year to warrant paying any attention to the ice). So it’s our pleasure to present to you Morgan’s reason he loves hockey:
Esprit de Corps and Trying to be a Plus
Being a hapless Yank from south of the boarder, I never learned to skate as a kid, and gaining a proficiency in ice skating beyond “a moose stranded on a frozen lake” has proved to be difficult for me to learn in my fourth decade of life. I loved hockey (still do), and desperately wanted to play. I finally found a non-skating, co-ed street hockey league last year, whereupon I joined up with a brand new team in this league. Being a Devils fan, I naturally played the part of the stay at home defenseman, and I played pretty well. I ended up minus 16 for a team that had a goal differential of… hang on, I can look this up… HOLY CRAP MINUS 89!
Ahem, anyway, this year I was determined to play better. Last year, I had played in 14 of my teams 20 games, and I wanted to have a minus equal or below the number of games played. I just missed. This year, I wanted to achieve that goal, and also score a goal before the playoffs. The goal was scored early in the year, and after playing in 12 of my teams first 17 games I stood at minus 7.
Two weekends ago, my team played a nail-biter that we lost 2-1. I made a defensive blunder that led to the first goal against. Later, I was covering my opposing forward when the play broke down on the other side of the goal, and the other team scored to go up 2-1 with less than two minutes to play. I was devastated. I was minus 2 in a one goal game, and I felt that I let the team down with my play. Our league has all volunteer refs and one of the guys reffing the game was Bob W., our league’s commish. He made a point to come up to me after the game and tell me that I had played a hell of a game, and since I started playing in the league two years ago my play had improved dramatically. He noted that I joined the rush more, and was more of a two way played than a guy nailed to his own end of the court. Also after the game, Ray, one of my teammates told me that I was throwing passes at “100 mph” and I might want to tone it down.
Last weekend our team played a team in our league that basically abandoned our captain and a couple of guys two years ago leaving them to piece together my team. It’s always a grudge match. We went up 1-0 in the first half (we play halves), and at intermission I asked Ray if my passes were manageable. Ray smiled at me and said “Welcome back.” The second half was tense, as both teams exchanged goals. Well, with the score 2-1 and less that five minutes to play I failed to clear the ball and the best player from the opposing team picked the top corner of the net with a beautiful wrister to tie us 2-2. We went to overtime, where I again was covering my forward on the far side when the other team scored to beat us 3-2. Again we lost by a goal, and again I was minus 2. I pulled aside another teammate of mine, Enyat and asked him point blank what the hell I was doing wrong. He looked at me as if I was nuts and told me that I had played great.
This, to me, is the two things that are the essence of hockey: Personal challenge and great no nonsense people. Hockey is the most difficult sport to play, to follow as a fan and (especially down in the USA) to defend. You have to work to be a hockey fan, and we fans know it and we are proud of this. What makes this work easier is that time and time again you will run into an esprit de corps among hockey fans. People who “get” you, people who will tell you point blank when you’re screwing up, and people who will go out of their way to lend a hand or a word of encouragement.
I know none of this is absolute. I know the challenges of playing and being a fan of hockey pale in comparison to soldiers at war, or even the tedious yet demanding dance of everyday life. I know that there are colossal jerks who are hockey fans. I also know that none of this diminishes my love for the game of hockey and respect for those who play it and support it.
P.S. I have one regular season game left to play on Sunday. My 15th out of 20, and I am now minus 11. We are playing the second best team in the league, and I will do my damnedest to stay under minus 5.