March 14th, 2012

UF black and white

Fandoms I Have Loved 13: Hockey RPF

Sidney Crosby is returning to play on 3/15, and to celebrate, I thought it was time I returned to a thing I love that I used to do a looooooong time ago: Fandoms I Have Loved. For hockey RPF. I am quite serious.

But let's be clear about this. Yes, I have hockey blogs on my reader now. Yes, I now have actual opinions about rule modifications. Yes, I watch hockey clips on YouTube and argue with the referees, even though a) they cannot hear me and b) obviously if they could they wouldn't care, since they are clearly watching a whole different game, what the fuck was that call even about, were you FACING THE FUCKING ICE AT THE TIME?

And, of course, I care about the players. Basically all of them. Way more than I should. Put it this way: When Sidney Crosby was cleared for contact, my inbox erupted with joy. It was seriously a great day for me. (He looked genuinely happy. That's - weird for him.) I know two people who cried.

Still, I don't actually know very much about hockey. (Although I know way, way more than I knew on January 1, 2012. I sometimes think we - at least those of us who are allergic to real resolutions - should go back and make retroactive resolutions. Like, so you happened to buy a lot of shoes in 2011? Your 2011 retroactive resolution was clearly "mix up my shoe wardrobe more." My point is, if 2012 keeps on the way it has been, my resolution will turn out to have been "learn more about sports, ideally ones that involve a lot of hugging.") So when I say fandom I have loved, I really am talking about the fandom. My approach to RPF appears to amount to "ignore reality if that makes it more fun," so this is not the place to go for actual hockey facts.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for fandom facts, I am here for you. And let's start with reasons to read the rest of this FIHL.

(Note: I am indebted to basically everyone who already knew things about hockey. Everything I'm saying here, someone taught me in the past, like, three months. Thank you, hockey persons!)

Hockey: Five Reasons to Love It (Even If You Don't Like Sports)
  1. Numbers. If you generally have a hard time telling people apart, even if one of them has, like, a giant facial scar, and also the other one has three noses, fear not! In hockey, they wear helmets (and mouthguards and sometimes visors and also so much padding you could make fourteen quilts out of one of them, and yet they still get hurt all the time, which tells you something about the basic insanity of skating up to mach 2 and then slamming into a guy wearing knives strapped to his feet and carrying a big stick), so no one can tell anyone apart. Which is why during games they have their names on their backs and numbers everywhere. You just need to memorize the numbers you are specifically interested in and you're golden. Since I can't ever tell anyone from anyone else, I love this so much I sometimes wish everyone would adopt it, and then I realize that that is a key plot element of like 87 dystopian YA novels, and I get over myself.

  2. You Can Play. This is an anti-homophobia campaign run by hockey people and featuring big-name hockey players. (Including Duncan Keith, who you'll be hearing about later! And Henrik Lundqvist, known in my household for provoking the latest round of, "No, trust me, everyone but you thinks he's attractive." Best Beloved has no patience with me sometimes. I'm sorry! He has very nice hair, okay? It's - glossy?) Yes, "You can play sports even if you're gay!" is not something that should have to be said, but it definitely needs saying anyway, and these guys are saying it. It's worth watching a game or two just to support them.

  3. Hockey Hugs. (I've linked to one of my favorites - the mid-game proposal! - because I can't find a way to link to all the Hockey Hugs entries. The Puck Daddies need to work on their fucking tags system, or else maybe I need to work on my brain system. Whichever.) Even the professional journalists slash the fuck out of hockey dudes, is my point, and also they are pretty amusing while doing it. Plus. I mean. Any sport that features a lot of enthusiastic hugging is better than any sport that doesn't, and that is just fact. ETA: Since Puck Daddy would apparently prefer for us to use third-party systems, here is a link to all the Hockey Hugs I could find, tagged on my Pinboard.

  4. The Horror. By which I mean the terrible, terrible things players do to their hair, their faces, and their clothes in the name of either charity or - you know, I actually don't know why they look how they look most of the time. This is a sport where people wear suits to talk to the media directly after games, sometimes even nice suits, and yet for reasons that still aren't clear to me no one has ever held Patrick Kane down and forced him to get a decent haircut. And this is also a sport where the guys grow deeply horrible mustaches for Movember, and there is a tradition that the team whose players do the best Grizzly Adams cosplay in the postseason get to hug a big silver cup. (Seriously. This is a thing. Playoff beards. Look it up, but don't look at images if you're of a sensitive disposition. Or eating.) I love that it's possible to spend like half the season recoiling from the appearance of your team, even if you are lucky enough to have a relatively attractive bunch of guys on there.

  5. Goalie Masks. These things are twisted, and you know how I respect that. Goalies get to customize their masks, which I suspect is one of those bones they threw them because otherwise no one would be willing to take that fuck-awful job (if you're the goalie, you can make 30 saves and still get booed for the one you miss, and also you wear so much protective equipment that if you want to hug a teammate you risk suffocating him; goalie fights are like two men attempting to dance with beach balls glued all over their bodies). But the thing is, well. If you weren't a very odd person before you became an NHL goalie, you would be after a few seasons of it, and it shows. Some of those goalie masks look like creations serial killers would make out of their victims (looking at you, Carey Price). Some look like the ultimate nerdgasm (Kari Lehtonen! Peter Budaj!). I love that every goalie's psyche is right out there on display. (And, in the case of the one that looks like brains: way to take that literally.) Gives you something to analyze during breaks in the action.
In addition, there is also an actual game involved here, which - okay, I love it. It is fast and fun and only sort of lethal, and also it features in most hockey RPF stories (except, you know, the ones about gladiators or whatever). And you can figure out at least half of it in just a week of dedicated confusion. Let's talk about that next! Sort of!

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