(Ed Note: Gerald Morton is a part-time Zamboni operator, PhD Candidate, occasional lecturer at Vancouver Island University and former hockey target. Anyone interested in contributing an article, column or post to the blog can pitch yo stuff here. Now, here's Gerald.)
By Gerald Morton
When I saw Kaspars Daugavins' shootout attempt against the Boston Bruins recently, I thought: "This isn’t new. Every kid tries this."
In that moment, I understood the negative reactions better.
The emotional part of my hockey watching self saw the shootout and realized it was not the stuff of professional men. NHL players excel at specific skills and don’t rely on gimmick and trickery. They skate faster, shoot harder and more accurately, and envision the game unlike us mortal hacks.
The emotional part of my hockey watching self saw that shootout and witnessed childishness. We do love to see child-like wonder emerge in the spontaneous jubilance of celebration, but not in the calculation of well-thought-out events.
We abhor childishness in our grown up sports. We don’t want our idols to pretend to be hurt. We don’t want grown men to hide from confrontation. We project our childish egos onto the ice and hope for the pure and perfect hockey player of our childish imagination. We want our heroes to be perfect, not the grey, imperfect reflection of ourselves. Our emotional, childish selves want Superman, not the Dark Knight.
And because of this, our emotional selves wish the shootout was gone. But, until that happens we want the shootout to be as satisfying an event as possible.
The Daugavins’ shootout reminds us this idea is too easily broken.
It shows us the shootout is a forced isolation, in our beloved team game. It no longer resembles the breakaway. This shootout, like so many others, is too long and too slow—it ignores the in-game reality of being chased. It is broken away from all connection to the pure game.
The intellectual part of my hockey watching self saw that shootout and realized it was a piece of minor genius. It wasn’t new, or unique. And, of course, it wasn’t a reflection of the pure game. Purity is stuff of our own childishness. Purity is ideal, without form. Daugavins’ shootout took an old form, practiced by kids everywhere, and exposed it to the judgmental gaze of fans and media. It was not new. It was not special.
But it still was something wonderful. It was the Steve Jobs of shootout attempts. It took an old form and an old idea, and married them into something different enough to cause a stir. It was pure spectacle. It was calculation, without adherence to the agreed upon rules of the game. It was Sean Avery facing Brodeur to screen him. It was an act removed from the pretense of the game. It was pure gamesmanship.
Our intellectual selves understand the calculated, albeit unsuccessful, genius of that attempt.
But it was a calculation without emotional satisfaction.
I think most of us find a balance between our emotional and intellectual selves when we watch hockey. Somewhere in the dialectic between fanatic and rational observer we find satisfaction. In our personal sweet spots we experience those perfect hockey moments that keep us coming back. In the instant, we feel the beauty of the game.
Sometimes it is awful, sometimes it is ecstatic. But, in the instants, we simply feel.
Over time, our intellectual selves replay those moments and gain more and more satisfaction from them. Our emotional hockey watching selves experience the massive peaks and valleys of fandom. Our intellectual hockey watching selves experience the deep satisfaction and understanding of mature reflection. When these things are balanced we have euphoria extended over long periods. We have celebratory times that can be rehashed and relived.
When these halves are unbalanced we have Flyers fans, or much of the media. They are either too hot-headed to be understood, or too removed to be considered a part of this thing we love. I’ll let you figure out, which is which.
In the end, we all have different criteria for balance. And we all lean in different degrees towards calm observation or guttural response.
Bu we can all agree that inspiration, without heart, leaves us cold.
In short, Kaspars, we were not satisfied with your idea.
(Gerald Morton is a part-time Zamboni operator, PhD Candidate, occasional lecturer at Vancouver Island University and former hockey target.)