An Ode to Hockey


There is something about the musty smell of a dressing room that gives me goose bumps.  It’s the anticipation of greatness.

In hockey there are rules, referees and penalties for those who break the law.  There is structure to the game, yet it’s what’s beneath the surface that defines the culture of hockey. You see, hockey maintains a set of unwritten rules: The Code, as it is.  Those who break these sacred and treasured rules will face a different judge, jury and executioner.

Hockey is the only sport where you can’t run out of bounds.  It’s the fastest game on two feet and combines grace, honour and aggression.  Hockey represents the simulation of war in the most deadly of conditions.  Spawned on a tundra landscape amid conditions that claimed many of frontier immigrants, hockey represents survival and perseverance.

It’s the sport for the average-sized human being that values intelligence as equally as brawn.  It lifts spirits and harvests lifelong dreams; where an undersized, blonde-haired kid from a small farming community can rise up to international fame and riches beyond belief. It’s a unifying constant that brings people from all walks of life and from different beliefs and backgrounds together over a beer or a hot cup of coffee.  In front of the TV on a Saturday night, a Conservative and a Liberal can join together in unison, screaming expletives at a striped-shirted man named Von Hellamond.

People always ask me what I love about hockey and this is it.  It’s all the subtleties of the sport.  The smells, the pain, the nervousness before every game and the exhilaration you experience when you score a big goal or deliver a breathtaking hit.  It’s a rush of life through your body that reminds you why you put up with all the heartache along the way.  There’s nothing better than the feeling you get from the unbelievable highs in this sport.  All the blood, sweat and tears are happily sacrificed for those moments of blissful perfection.

Hockey is the best thing in the world.  I fuckin’ love it.

It’s the perfect combination of passion, camaraderie, structure, anger, elation and justice.  It’s reality in the most fantastical form.  For 60 minutes you can be whoever you want.  You can escape the harshness of the real world and hide behind a mask.  At the rink you can forget all your troubles.  Fighting with your girlfriend?  I doesn’t matter in here.  Bills are piling up and you can’t make the rent?  At the rink there is no currency and you always have a place to hang your hat.  When you walk through that door you can take on the form of any role that you can imagine.  You can be a gunslinger, a pest, a grinder or a thief.  You can be a surgeon, a sniper, an enforcer or a magician.

Every day at the rink is another day to clean the slate and reinvent yourself.  Every clean sheet of ice is like a fresh sheet of paper to pen your next adventure.  Each game is a new beginning and a chance at something magical.

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

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