Working as a full-time hockey writer changed the way I look at hockey.
When you have to cover all the teams and players objectively, you really begin to shed the binary nature of hockey fandom.
It’s no longer about “us vs. them.” You actually begin to appreciate and even root for teams and players that you would not have in the past.
That was my experience, at least, because what draws me to hockey the most is the stories the game produces.
As I’ve written before, my love for hockey grew strong through the 90s, and I’ve been captivated by the stories the sport has told ever since.
Stanley Cup championships, great players, not-so-great players that I loved regardless, trades, signings, coaching hirings and firings, and on it goes – all these stories captivated me then (and still do), and I pored over the sports section every morning not for the box scores, but rather the quotes, player profiles and rumours du jour.
Look, it’s not hard to see how messed this sport can be. Despite declaring it to be fully so, the NHL clearly is not yet for everyone, and hockey culture has a ways to go before women, people of colour and the LGBTQI community feels welcome, supported and appreciated.
There are moments when I’ve been tempted to walk away from a sport that doesn’t know what it has in these faithful fans, but I can never quite pack it in.
A couple years ago, I pitched a story for theScore that was fairly well received – Season in a sentence: 1 positive storyline for every NHL team. It was so fun and rewarding to write, I did it again on this prior to last season.
That’s the stuff that keeps me coming back to this game.
Here’s a couple more recent examples for good measure.
Full disclosure: I’m not yet over Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and as much as I don’t want it to bother me, I cringe at the thought of Boston losing to St. Louis. And then I think about what that win meant for Lalia Anderson, and it all gets put back in perspective.
And let’s not forget the game itself can be magical to watch. Again, I use another instance where my favourite team was at the wrong end of things. Yes, shit went off the rails between these two players off the ice, but how can you watch this and not fall in love with hockey?
This all doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s a start.
Being a hockey fan can be maddening and upsetting, but I truly believe it’s the greatest sport in the world and I’m happy to be a very tiny part of the community.
Here’s to making it a better place in 2019-20.