If you read the papers and listen to the radio you know that our life is about to get way better. This is because NHL hockey is back, after having stayed away from us for almost half the season and creating a huge gap in our lives.
The sports pages are filling up with actual hockey stories about actual hockey players and whether they have a nice touch around the net. There is speculation about trades and line combinations. This already makes life better for sports page readers, who got really tired of reading about the players and the owners negotiating or not negotiating or not even talking about negotiating. This might have been the worst reading in the history of sports journalism.
Anything is an improvement on that and reading actual game stories about the Ottawa Senators and their hated opponents will be a great improvement still.
Those whose needs are greater will find satisfaction in the sports talk shows on the radio, where line combinations are examined in even greater depth.
Now it begins again and not a moment too soon for many of the experts on our culture, who keep saying that hockey defines us as a people. Of course there’s something in that. Many of us play or have played hockey, many more of us watch hockey, even listen to it on the radio.
But hockey doesn’t define everybody. Even in Ottawa. Look how long we went without an NHL team. The previous Senators vacated the premises in 1934; the current Senators didn’t arrive until 1992. That’s a 58 years with no NHL team to define us.
And yet we survived somehow as a city, as a city of Canadians who are supposed to be defined by hockey.
This must mean that there are things other than hockey that occupy space in the hearts of people in the National Capital Region. It may also mean that there are people among us who, even now, define themselves as something other than Senators fans — or even Leafs or Habs fans.
In fact, amazing as it may seem, they may not even think of hockey when it comes time to define themselves. They may define themselves in terms of their jobs. They may define themselves as runners, guitar players, readers, grandparents, hipsters, foodies, Presbyterians, skateboarders, gardeners or even baseball fans. Yet here they all are living in this country that’s defined by hockey.
And hockey season is starting. Which means that all those skateboarders, guitar players and grandparents are going to be living, whether they like it or not, in a world of line combinations, plus-minus statistics and rumors of impending firings of general managers. It behooves those who live happily in Hockey World to be respectful of those who choose other pursuits.
They think they have reason to fear us, and no wonder. Slap Shot was on TV the other night and those who live in Hockey World always tune in for at least part of it. It seems quite Canadian, although it is a Hollywood movie.
But is it really Canadian, all that enthusiastic brawling and blood on the ice? It’s what many hockey fans deplore yet, at the same time, we somehow identify with it in a way that American moviegoers cannot.
One of the things that defines us, in other words, is our enjoyment of a movie about hockey brawls. This gets a bit scary and it is probably just as well that in real hockey, as opposed to movie hockey, there are referees and brawling is at least officially frowned upon.
So, as the real hockey starts, try to be sympathetic towards those of other tastes, remembering that, to some Canadians, condominium height, garbage pickup and light rail are even as important as defence pairings, odd-man rushes and face-off percentages. As they say, it takes all kinds.