Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Heart College Hockey

I wasn’t born with the sports gene. I’m blaming it on an undiagnosed recessive disorder: I am simply missing that part of my DNA. So when I say I love college hockey, this is a sign of great personal growth. 
My sporting history is riddled with embarrassing facts:
  • See that little girl in the outfield picking dandelions while the softball rolls past her in the grass? That’s me.
  • That girl under the blankets absorbed in a novel while her family watches the game on TV every week? Also me.
  • I’m also the one who was discovered snoring on my fiance’s shoulder while we were sandwiched among 80,000 howling fans at a Buffalo Bills game. (Yes, in a blizzard. But it’s Buffalo, so mentioning the snow is redundant.)
  • Because I offer, I’m the designated beer-fetcher at major league baseball games. Always have been, always will be.
It’s not that I can't follow the rules of sports. I even sometimes surprise my husband with my understanding of an obscure football call. It’s just that I never could muster the energy to care who won or lost. I've learned that this can be an annoying habit to the sports fans in my life.

However, since having children, the stakes have changed.
This weekend we’re on our way to the Frozen Four college hockey tournament in the mysterious town of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania (credit: favorite author Michael Chabon). The eve of the Frozen Four is a good time to reflect on why, despite my genetic makeup, I now care deeply about Yale hockey. 

My connection to Yale is only tangential. As a Yale alum, the MOTH has a deep affinity for the school and all that it has to offer, but it is hockey that has captured his imagination. Inevitably, the hockey fever has spread to the kids. Their combined reverence for the game has nudged me into the world of the season ticket-holder. Each year, the family's spirits rise and fall with the fate of our team.

Every game is an anthology of short stories: the Great Assist by the senior forward, the Blind Ref who made that terrible call; the Check Against the Boards that led to a penalty for the opposing team, which led to a Power Play, which led to a win … They are stories of heroes and gods, of oafish opponents and little guys winning in the end; of making mistakes and suffering the consequences. And sometimes, they are stories of kids giving all they’ve got and still losing; or kids who don’t give all they’ve got and who lose because they didn’t want the win badly enough. As with all sporting events, the opportunities for life lessons abound.

And one of these stories – the one that too often goes untold -- is the story about maintaining connections. For the MOTH, cheering for Yale is an opportunity to remain connected to a great university. The institution has a long, proud history and an infinitely optimistic future. He clings to this place, and for good reason. But for all four of us, cheering for Yale is also a way to connect with each other as our busy lives take us further apart during the week. Like sharing a good meal, watching hockey is where we shine. It’s what we do. We do it together, and we do it well.

Others may find it odd that we have no concrete connection with the team: we don’t know any players personally, we aren’t originally from New Haven, and our kids don’t even play ice hockey. We don’t follow professional hockey games. And yet we invest a significant amount of energy, money, time and good will toward these kids at Ingalls Rink.

We suffer and triumph together with this team. We wear ourselves out with worry. We travel to support them at away games. We scream ourselves hoarse to motivate them. Like any good fans, we purchase the gear, we follow the stats, and we talk up our team to anyone else who will listen. And all of this silly fansmanship is important, somehow. Choosing sides, for better or worse, demands that we commit ourselves to something. We must be all in, we must show earnest support -- for the sake of our team. No negativity is allowed.

This too, offers life lessons for our family: commit to each other. Make time to be present, physically and emotionally. Show your support for each other, and cheer each other on, no matter what.

Yale Hockey has made me a believer in the value of sports. Yale's is not a miracle team (yet), but it is MY team. It is the team of my family. So I’ll sit beside these enthusiastic kids and their jittery, zealous father on those cold hard benches. I’ll watch the games, teething my stale Twizzler’s and frying my tongue on hot chocolate. I’ll hold my breath until the end of each period, praying that my team and my family will emerge triumphant. I'll listen to all the stories afterward, and I’ll commit my heart and soul to this sport of hockey. For us, it is simply an extension of this sport of being a family. I heart hockey for all the lessons it teaches us about winning and losing, about staying connected, and about enjoying our time together while we're here. I'm all in.


  1. Although I don't follow college hockey, I do pay attention from time to time to the NHL. Being in Chicago, you have to pay attention to the Blackhawks.

  2. Just a little coda: YALE WON!!!!!


    The MOTH


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