(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!)
Puck Daddy readers no doubt remember Alyonka Larionov from her instant-classic PensTV cooking segment with Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin(notes), which we called "the first, and unforgettable, marriage between hockey celebrity and food porn."
Larionov is a wonderful subject for our "5 Reasons" as a hockey fan, as someone working with an NHL team, but also because she's hockey royalty -- thanks to her Hall of Fame father, Igor Larionov.
With that, we turn it over to Alyonka Larionov (and a big thanks to Dmitry Chesnokov for making this happen). It's one of the most interesting lists we've run in the series.
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Growing up a kid of a hockey player is a little different than being a fan of the game.
OK, it's a lot different. But one of the main differences is that it wasn't all about the love. A constant travelling dad with a grueling schedule (somehow there was always an away game on April 4th), the paranoia of never knowing my true friends ("Hey, aren't you Larionov's daughter) and the fear of falling short to such a lustrous and amazing career (three Stanley Cups, Olympic Gold medals, HHOF ... Dad, did you really have to set the bar so high?) created a kind of love/hate relationship for me.
But since this is the 5 Reasons Why I Love Hockey, I'll spare you the hate and will give you the love.
1. The Wives Room ... or What We as Kids Called "The Playroom."
Until we were much older, we never really paid much attention to the game itself. No, it was more about the games we played with all the other hockey kids.
We had a group and we all 'got' each other. We played hide-and-seek or tag, although in the depths of the arena -- rolled-up carpets were our pretend mountains and leftover merchandise were used as costumes. Playoffs were always fun because we could use our pom-poms as fighting props (if you were a boy) or tuck them into your pig-tails as a decorative piece (if you were a girl). It made us feel like regular kids, just with a larger and weirder playground.
I think we can all agree that the best part of the night was waiting by the Wives Room Door to see whose Dad would walk in next. Win or lose, dads were always happy and smiling when we'd run up to them and give them a hug.
2. Extended Family.
My family are the only Larionovs that live in North America. The rest live in Russia, so it gets hard over the year, especially holidays, when most extended families come together. Hockey allowed me to have all the cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents that weren't around come together when I needed them most. We celebrated the holidays and special events together and it made me feel like I was apart of a loving community. A large group of good people that became my extended family and continue to love and support me to this day.
3. Our Favorite Things.
(For this one I sat down with my brother and sister, Igor and Diana, so we could brainstorm our favorite things.)
- Long summers ... that is if the playoffs ended all too quickly.
- Practice: a bunch of us would come out to the practices, sit and watch patiently until it was time for us to go and skate with our dads.
- Eating Frosted Flakes out of the Stanley Cup for breakfast.
- Igor: "Having my name on the Cup three times."
- Celebrating the Stanley Cup win on the ice. It's always fascinating to see grown men crying.
- Riding down Woodward Avenue during the Stanley Cup Parade only to later realize that our Dad was holding his "#1 Hockeytown" sign, upside down.
- Igor: "Being in the Stanley Cup On-Ice Team Photo" (This statement was followed by a fist pump.)
- Second Intermission Pizza. All the kids couldn't wait for the Second Period to be over. Pepperoni or Cheese?
- Here's to endless bumps and bruises. The competition never ends ... even during friendly Tag games at home.
- Diana: "All you can eat buffet at the Olympic Village in Salt Lake City."
- Diana: "Remember when we'd race to Dad's room ... whoever got there first would wake him up from his Pre-Game Nap."
- Diana: "Writing Dad's HHOF Speech."
- Picking up a love for literature in fear of Scotty Bowman's disapproval ... we never wanted to disappoint Scotty.
- Walking through the secret HHOF storage room. (Thanks Steve!)
- Attending a total of 24 different schools, living in a total of 20 different houses in 4 different countries ... all add up to personality building experiences. We are all a bit strange!
You were and are the greatest player in my mind; playing the greatest sport with the purest passion and unfaltering commitment, achieving dreams without a single doubt or fear and continuing to support the game that allowed you to love your job each and every day.
But most importantly, through hockey, you showed me that all my dreams can come true. You are my shining example of who I want to be when I grow up.
5. As Much As I Tried, I Can't Get Away From It.
Hockey flows through my veins and is the beat of my heart. It is my one true home.
A blank sheet of ice, an empty arena, the cold air and turning over a bucket of pucks before a single skate touches the ice ... there is nothing else that soothes the soul or feels more like home. It's like taking a breath of fresh air in the coldest of winter days, working up a sweat, rosy cheeks puffing out clouds of air, and being with the people that love, care and understand me.
Hockey is the comfort food on the saddest or loneliest day. It is a good friend that will never turn its back on me. It is a place where I can be myself and where I feel at my best. A peaceful calm.
Hockey is my family. So thank you Hockey for being the one consistent place in a never ending journey ... you are my home.