It’s been said time and time again that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” You’ve said it to your sobbing roommate who is missing her long-distance boyfriend, you’ve said it about pretty much any unrequited love left behind when you went to college, you’ve said it about the brief but trying hiatus of our beloved Knight Library. This cliche yet undeniably true mantra successfully helped me through a really rough time this year: the National Hockey League lockout. Let’s all pause for a moment of reflection.
I’ll give you the long, long (exactly 113 days long), story short. In September, the owners of the league franchises declared war, er, a lockout for the NHL Players’ Association because they couldn’t reach a bargaining agreement by the deadline date. (Cue Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends.") This dreadful lockout was brought on by a labor dispute over share percentages on hockey-related revenues, term limits on contracts, free agencies rules, salaries, yadda yadda yadda.
In a nutshell, about 510 regular-season games were cancelled and about 510 tears fell as we helplessly watched some of our favorite NHL players trickle down to lower leagues in the meantime. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman estimated that the business lost about $18 million to $20 million a day, players lost about $8 million to $10 million a day, and fans lost our minds. Talk about slashing! (Hockey pun.) Fortunately, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I like to pretend this light is coming from a series of zambonis driven by Happy Gilmore, Wayne Gretzky and the entire team from the original Mighty Ducks movie (excluding Emilio Estevez, sorry Sporto).
On Jan. 13, we lucked out when the league officially lifted the lockout when they finally reached a deal. With a 48-game season, it’ll be short, but dang sweet for certain. Next week the puck will drop and the angels will sing.
Hello? Anyone still there?
Okay, okay. I realize that an article directed towards you foxy collegiettes isn’t necessarily the same audience of those of us who were considering going full-fledged angry mob mode to the rinks played on by NHL teams near and far. Granted, the pitchforks and torches of this imaginary mob would’ve been a little lackluster as the ice on the rinks would just melt into a makeshift kiddie pool in the arenas that they would probably somehow market for the towns' citizens to come cool off in. The thing you naysayers really need to dive into is the greatness that is the sport of ice hockey.
We’ve all seen Remember The Titans and we all remember precious goldilocks Hayden Panettiere playing the charmingly obnoxious daughter of the head football coach as she tirelessly screams her lungs out at every game. Growing up, that was me with hockey. Except my hair wasn’t blonde, I wasn’t as cute and my dad wasn’t a coach, just a superfan. But you better believe I had the same amount of passion and gusto as if I was little Hayden yelling at the players to “stop acting like a bunch of sissies!"
As a delicate elementary school Floridian female, I was slaying stereotypes left and right! I got my greatest kicks from wrecking a grown man in a yelling fight over my dearly beloved Tampa Bay Lightning. I would turn down the nice man selling cotton candy at the games and politely ask him to move out of my way because he was blocking my view. I may or may not have stopped talking to someone because I found out they were a Montreal Canadiens fan. I’m pretty sure at one point I listed all my favorite hockey players in my Myspace “Heroes" section. Really inspirational stuff.
You really don’t know what you’re missing if you’re not a hockey fan, but fear not, I am here to usher you onto the righteous path. After reading my list of reasons why every girl should “check” their apprehension (hockey pun) at the door, you’ll be a new soul! Then, get your game face on and meet me at a Lightning game for a celebratory lockout-is-over victory dance.
Reasons why you should love hockey:
- It’s okay to be a barbaric! I am a pacifist to a fault, a downright hippie when it comes to non-violence. You could punch me in the face and I’d probably just chuck up a peace sign and deuce out. But when you see a hockey player toss off his gloves to start wailing on another player, it’s undeniably awesome. You find yourself jumping up and down and yelling things like “COME ON, MAKE HIM BLEED!” and boo-ing when the fight eventually ends. Then you kind of have an out-of-body experience where you realize your momentary insanity and smirk. That’s healthy every once in awhile, right?
- The Stanley Cup: champions can celebratory pop bottles and then drink it out of their trophy. SO. COOL.
- It is hands down the most exciting sport to watch. Calm down, football/baseball/rhythmic gymnastics fans! Your sports are all enthralling, but you can’t blink while watching a hockey game without missing something. It’s fast-paced, physical and visually stimulating at all times. Also, you can get close to the action, which just adds to the thrill-fest.
- THE DUDES. Sure they may be lacking a tooth, or six, but they certainly make up for it in other areas. They’re tough, they’re in shape, they’re skilled, they’re graceful, they’re just freakin’ cool. If a hockey player is good enough for Carrie Underwood then it’s good enough for me! That being said, Teddy Purcell... call me!
- You’re not a spectator - you’re a fan. Studies show that it is humanly impossible to go to a hockey game and not become completely invested in who wins or loses. Granted, this isn’t an official study because I just made it up, but I’ve taken my neutral friends to many a game and they all leave that arena a changed person. By that I mean, their voices are usually gone and they’ve got enough adrenaline to go benchpress an F-150.
- It’s easy to follow. Just keeping your eye on the puck is probably the most complicated part of watching a hockey game. The rest is pretty self-explanatory; just go with it.
- Fan comradery. When you meet someone who shares your passion for hockey, it’s an instant connection. Violins start playing as you run in slow motion to fistbump in a field of flowers. It feels like joyous fate every time. Not like when you meet someone who is a football fan...because everyone is a football fan.
- If you’re still not convinced, watch the movie “Miracle.” In my opinion, the greatest sports movie in the history of sports movies. I cry everytime. I get chills everytime. Every American human being needs to watch it. It's brilliant.
- Last but certainly not least...Hubba Hubba. I’m just gonna leave this list of the Hottest Players in the NHL here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/nhl/the-hottest-players-in-the-nhl-2ag2
Alright, now that I’ve hopefully ignited the hockey spark, here’s your next steps to fuel your fire. The Tampa Bay Lightning play at the Tampa Times Forum, which was recently revamped and it’s baller. If you’re not willing to commit to an NHL game yet, there’s still some icy hope for you yet. The UCF ice hockey team is currently ranked #1 in the South, which is ridiculously awesome, so go ahead and support your Knights and your new favorite sport! Also, the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears play at the Amway, which is perfect for a date night and you can totally impress your dude after reading my article! Go get em’ girl. You’re welcome!
Photo sources: Buzzfeed.com, NHL.com