Archives for posts with tag: NHL playoffs

I’m a pretty loyal Canadian in many ways. I prefer exploring my own country by road rather than other countries by air. I read Canadian history as a hobby. I think I’ve voted in every federal election since I got the opportunity to vote. As stated in previous posts, I have special interest in Canadian musicians. I prefer the CBC over other channels for my newscasts. I attend a parade and/or fireworks on July 1 if at all possible. I enjoy watching many sports but prefer CFL football to the NFL and my favourite sport to watch is ice hockey—sometimes called Canada’s national game [with apologies to lacrosse].

In hockey my favourite teams are Canadian teams: I grew up cheering for the Leafs, switched to the Jets when they got a professional team, then when we lost the Jets and our family moved to Calgary I added the Flames [subsequently had to dislike the Oilers]; when we moved to the west coast I began to appreciate the Canucks but felt compelled to switch back to Winnipeg as my favourite when the NHL came back to my home province. I’d love to see Ottawa win a Stanley Cup because it has been almost 100 years and for Toronto it has been 50; and of course, Winnipeg and Vancouver deserve their first! Although nowadays one can watch hockey almost any night of the week, Saturday night is when it becomes “the thing to do” for me. My favourite players on other teams are also often Canadian: Jonathon Toews, Braden Holtby, Jerome Iginla, and Carey Price just to name a few active veterans. And I can’t help but get on the Connor McDavid bandwagon just because he is such an exciting player to watch.

So, with the NHL playoffs just around the corner, the interest in the game again heightens, especially since at present five of the seven Canadian teams have a chance this year [compared to the depressing situation last year when no Canadian teams made the playoffs]. Unfortunately, I do not think that this will be the year we will bring the Cup home to Canada. Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa are all young and exciting teams but I don’t think they have the experience and endurance to make it past the second round, although I will be happy if I am proven wrong. Montreal has Carey Price and Shea Weber but it will not be enough. In the west, Jonathon Toews could lead Chicago to another one and make it a dynasty or Joe Thornton and the Sharks could go right to the end as they did last year. In the east, Sidney Crosby and Matt Murray could help Pittsburgh repeat but my prediction is that the Washington Capitals [I know, the capital city of the USA] will take it all this year led by Alexander Ovechkin [He may not be Canadian but I love his passion and joy for the game]. And of course, they have Braden Holtby of Lloydminster [border city between Alberta and Saskatchewan] as the solid back-stopper and Barry Trotz from Winnipeg, Manitoba as their coach.

The NHL playoffs are upon us! This year, with four of the five Canadian teams not really expected to be in the playoffs and making an exciting run to beat out recent defending champions [LA Kings and Boston Bruins], it has been particularly engaging for many of us. Unfortunately four are playing each other but we know that at least two of the five will make it to the second round! Some people have said that hockey is Canada’s national religion and there is evidence for this: a television altar around which the faithful are gathered to witness the battle of good vs. evil, heroes vs. villains; they wear special clothing indicating allegiances; they consume a special version of bread and wine, i.e. chips and beer; there are prophecies about the outcomes; the psalms of both praise and deprecation are uttered with deep emotion, the playoffs are the high point of the liturgical year… we could go on.

I feel some ethical ambivalence surrounding professional sports and I am keenly aware of my own hypocrisy. There are the multi-million dollar contracts, the drug use and mental illness, the media analysis ad nauseam, greed and exploitation, and all the other industrial characteristics of what has indeed become an industry. And then there are the racist and militaristic team names and logos… Some would say it is merely a modern sanitized version of the brutal and bloody activities that took place in the Roman coliseum of old. At the same time I believe that play and “re-creation” is fundamental to being human. I enjoyed playing a number of competitive sports with some tenacity [track & field, baseball, football, soccer, hockey, volleyball] as a young person. Due to my aging body, my competitive spirit is now channeled into watching my children and college students play sports. I also enjoy watching sports on TV, especially NHL hockey. It’s almost a Sabbath activity: a cessation of the stress of work and the temporary suspension of life’s harsh realities.

I find watching hockey a nice diversion from real life. Professional sports is not real life. Although I understand that athletes have become entertainers who have the “job” of amusing people and providing temporary relief from the humdrum of daily existence, it is not exactly an essential service. I appreciate that athletes and others in the entertainment industry are including other auxiliary activities in their work: hospital visitation, raising funds for worthy causes, speaking out on behalf of marginalized and hurting people, etc. It is good that these activities continue whether a team wins or loses. But let’s put it the whole thing in perspective: even though I will cheer mightily when a Canadian team wins and sigh deeply when they lose, it really does not matter one iota to real life.

This reminds me of Tripp York’s satirical prayer included in his book, Third Way Allegiance. Here are a few excerpts [I have Canadianized it by substituting hockey teams for his baseball teams]:

Dear God,
Could you please stop fixing sporting events? Seriously. Your unpredictability is killing me at the betting table. I can never figure out who you’re helping. One moment you’re hooking up a player with the Canucks and the next another player for the Flames. How am I supposed to figure out which one you love the most, or which one prayed the hardest, if you keep flip-flopping? Could you be a little less fickle with your handouts?

You are after all immutable. That means you are unchanging. It says so right here in the Bible, Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change.” Yet when it comes to sports, I am far more consistent than you. I have been a Leafs fan since 1961. Other than those few Cups in the 1960’s where you clearly graced us, do you know what misery I, along with other Leafs fans, have had to endure for decades? What do you have against Toronto? It’s no more pagan than any other city (though you have been a little more generous to the Raptors lately). Perhaps I should speak to the owner of the Maple Leafs about requiring team prayer before each game?

Anyway, do you think you could just pick a team and stay with them? No one likes a bandwagon fan. I just thought I would ask. I assumed, since you are so concerned about touchdowns, home-runs, and over-time goals, you wouldn’t mind.

Oh, and another thing (sorry to be so needy): I know you are omnipotent, but it seems you have been giving more attention to Saturday night scores than to a few other things in the world. Granted, I know extremely affluent athletes who own multiple cars and houses are crucial to you, but do you think you could, oh, I don’t know, do something about the ongoing genocide in Syria? South Sudan? Tibet? Perhaps you could send a little help to ease the tensions between your followers in Israel and Palestine? There is also this AIDS epidemic occurring in Africa. Cancer is not good. Nor are blindness, paralysis, global warming, and the near extinction of pandas…

Perhaps (I’m feeling a bit like Abraham here), perhaps you could tone down the number of tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes you’ve been sending lately? While I’m asking, any chance you might convince your world leaders to stop making nuclear missiles? I know it’s a longshot, but since all governments are ordained by you, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Also, did you know that almost every four seconds someone dies of starvation? Of course you did. You’re omniscient.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning your justice; I’m sure their prayers for food and the basic necessities of life deserve to go unanswered. If I learned anything from the book of Job it is to tread quietly and not ask too many questions. But since you are overtly concerned with who wears championship rings, and Jesus did, after all, say that whatever we ask for you will provide… well… could you please make sure the Leafs have a better team next year?

A distraught fan
(With apologies to fans of the Leafs. Go Jets!)