(Ed. Note: Our series "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" features puckheads from all walks of life revealing five things that either made them a fan or that keep them watching hockey. It will run every weekend. Have a suggestion for a "5 Reasons" guest blogger? Hit us on email. Enjoy!)
Justin Bourne has hockey in his blood. His dad Bob was a member of the New York Islanders four Stanley Cup teams in the early 1980's. After a collegiate career with the University of Alaska Anchorage, Bourne spent some time in the Islanders system and then a few more seasons in the ECHL. Currently, Bourne is a columnist for USA Today and blogs regularly at The Hockey News and his own site, JTBourne.com.
From a player's perspective, we bring you Five Reasons Justin Bourne Loves Hockey.
1. Clean Ice.
If a stiff breeze hit that glass-like pre-period ice, it would advance the puck, which means that an on-ice snapshot is gonna peel paint off the post. Zero percent resistance, 100 percent awesome. It's the only time that the canvas is predictable and true, without ruts and bumps, just pure, cold smoothness. A saucer pass will land with that flat "smack" sound, skating is easy, and it just looks like shiny, glossy, perfect, happiness. I imagine heaven to be that sheet of ice, with a perfectly-taped brand-new blue and orange CCM Vector one piece (from six years ago), taped in white with light wax (oh, and a good goalie who loves taking breakaways). But that's just me. I used to love those Bauer commercials - "A clean sheet - what are you going to write?"
2. The Good Kind of "Ting!"
That miniscule, high-pitched "TING!" that's barely audible when you score just inside the post and catch just the tiniest piece of it. Not the metallic "thud" of a puck hitting the post solid. Only those crazy goalies like that one.
It's the perfect shot - as far to the outskirts of the net as possible without having the puck rejected like a basketball off the back of the rim. Ideally, the "ting!" would come from the top-corner, off the elbow, glove hand. That's the good stuff right there, that good, crisp "ting!". And if you're lucky, the net is wound super-tight, so it spits the puck right back out, making you feel like you're packin' Ovechkin-style heat (you're not).
3.The Simultaneous Bench Pop-Up.
You just get to the bench. You spray yourself with water. Your team has the puck deep in the offensive zone, battling for it along the wall. It's late in the third. Someone gets a handle on it and moves it up the wall to the d-man, who walks it to the middle and loads up a slap-shot - a seeing-eye slapshot - that sparks the red light. At that exact second, every single guy bumps his head on the rafters, hugs six people at once and has a mini-seizure. There's just nothing as cool as that shared experience. Only in hockey, man.
4. The Roller Coaster of "Oo's" and "Aahs".
Its one of my favourite hockey observations I've ever heard, from my friend Neil Corbett - "no game makes you think ‘oh, this is good, this is good, oh, this is bad, this is bad' as much as hockey."
As a player, in a back and forth game that doesn't have many whistles, when it's just rush - rush - rush - rush, you love the audible crowd gasps. If there's a big hit, or someone hits a post, or better - there's a breakaway - it's just too intense. You know it's going to be a huge reaction from the streaking opportunity either way, so you can almost feel everybody holding their breath as the player skates towards the opposing goal, with the quiet-but-growing energy about to explode. What other major sport is a breakaway not guaranteed to wield something? Football? Basketball? Please
5. The Breakthrough.
Hockey games are frustrating. "Ooo just about" "I almost had it" "I just missed you man, sorry".
So there's no feeling like that breakthrough where it all finally goes right for a play. Tic-tac-toe, Gooooaaaallll! When everything clicks just right, it's a completely serene sense of peace, with a dash of jubilation. Stats padded, a moment of relief washes over you. For the first time that game, there was literally nothing better you could have done. It was your ultimate goal, your best-case scenario, and you can go sit down on the bench and pretend that you don't want to continue smiling until you tuck in for bed that night. Cause you do. I love this game.