(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!)
Jillian E.is a Pittsburgh Penguins fan who lives in Maryland, "smack dab in the middle between the Caps and Flyers." Recently, she emailed us about our "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" series, and made a salient point:
"For all of these segments I have read through the summer, none are about actually playing the game we all love, they all seem to relate to watching games. People all seem to base around the classic NHL games, but what about the experiences a player has that makes the game we all know and love. People who play or played the game see a whole different side of the game. These people deserve their own list, for those memories old and new that make the game what we know and love so much. I may not be a big name, but I can do my best to speak for my fellow hockey lovers."
Speak, she shall. Here are 5 Reasons Jillian E. Loves Hockey, from a self-proclaimed "hometown girl who would give her left arm for some open ice a pair of skates and a few pucks."
1. The Feeling You Get When You Step Out Onto a Fresh Sheet of Ice
Hey, call it cheesy all you want, but it's the truth. That speeding ticket you got on the way to practice/men's league/pick-up doesn't matter anymore. You're here, and for the next hour or so, the biggest concern for you is putting the biscuit in the basket. Fresh ice just has a way of bringing back memories and reminding you of the endless possibilities. It has a way or reminding you why you love this game, and why you keep coming back for more, even though your kids tell you that you're terrible and the snack bar attendant probably skates better than you.
Everything is all right; and besides, who doesn't love that chemically treated ice scent?
2. The People You Meet.
Maybe it's Larry, your new friend from beer league with an unheard of passion for the Leafs; or Charles the Zamboni driver on weekdays, who lets you sit in his office on nights when you're missing a big game.
Face it, hockey fans and players are a breed of their own. We can walk up to strangers on the street wearing a jersey and ask them their feelings on the game last night, or how you think they would change the power play. And let's not forget the coaches you had over the years; the teamwork obsessed; or the coach who made things feel more like boot camp on ice. Hockey people are different. Friendly, yet willing to shun their best friend the night when your teams play each other; obsessed, but not enough to buy 3 Fatheads for your office (besides the fact that the cubicle walls are too short) ...
3. Locker Room Antics.
We all remember the days where locker-boxing was almost as fun as the game, or the time you put shaving cream in someone's skates. Some of hockey's best memories as a child are from here. Those motivational speeches from coach, drawing plays up on the white board. The atmosphere in there is unreal. (And not to mention the smell.) Leaders are born here, those few that step up between periods when you're down by two goals. Locker rooms bring teams together.
Nothing quite like the feeling from driving 12 hours to play Canadians in a tournament to get plastered by them. But going to these international events show you the passion complete strangers have for the same game you love too. Playing these teams and seeing how different East Coast hockey is from West Coast, or the fact that the farther north you go the more likely your chance of getting your butt kicked. These few days spent playing total strangers, and getting away from those pesky rival teams back home, bring you back to the core basics of hockey. Shoot hard, and skate harder. Tournaments show international talent, and give teams a chance to bond and win an amazing trophy.
Everyone can relate to this one, whether its for the Sunday night league finals against the team of men who never made it to the AHL and winning in overtime, or seeing your NHL team turn its losing streak into something good. The emotions that come out in these times are what shape the games: adrenaline, passion, and everything else all mashed into a 200 ft. x 98 ft. playing surface in one night. Miracles shape the game and keep us coming back for more (and they also make lovely movies too). They come in all shapes and sizes, like the year your back yard rink finally froze enough to skate on, or the time in "Mighty Ducks D3" that Goldberg scored the short handed goal.