Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Hockey Crush(es)

I have a confession to make. I have been harboring a crush all season. And not just on one player, either. Nope. I have been crushing on two players who are as different as they can be. One is a smart defenseman who keeps his head up, makes amazing plays, and is universally respected by everyone, from his teammates to the team that drafted him 4th overall in 2007. The other is a smart forward who is as well known for his antics as he is for his skill. He’s as brash on the ice as he is easygoing outside the rink. His draft day was filled with teams and analysts questioning his psychological state, but that didn’t stop him from going #11 overall in the 2008 Draft.

I don’t know why these two stand out in my mind over some of their equally talented teammates. Is it their looks? I’m not sure. As a woman, I’m sure many people will immediately jump to the conclusion that I think these two are the hottest guys on their teams. That’s not how I judge a man’s attractiveness. Physical features only count for a percentage of the overall score, so to speak. I’ve never met either one. They are not my friends on Facebook. We don’t share Twitter messages. Okay, I have interviewed one of the guys, but via email, and using his team’s PR guy as an intermediary. His answers to my questions were intelligent and thoughtful, but I knew that from reading other interviews with him. I’ve requested an interview with the other one and dutifully submitted my questions via email once we realized we couldn’t coordinate schedules for a phone interview. I’m still waiting for the answers, but that doesn’t matter either. I’ve seen and read what this guy has to say. His answers to my questions will not change anything.

So what is it? For one of the guys, I can tell you that it comes down to his notoriety. Yep, I like him because of his reputation as a “bad boy.” He makes me laugh when he agitates. And no matter what anyone else says or writes, I do NOT put him in the same league as Sean Avery, so get that thought right out of your head. People love him or hate him, but one thing is sure, you do not ignore this guy. He is a spark plug, and whether he revs your engine or makes you blow a gasket, you will not forget him anytime soon. He gives a great interview, is well spoken and you can tell that the wheels are turning upstairs. But it’s that edginess he shows you on the ice that makes you wonder what’s really going on inside his mind.

For the other guy, I cannot put my finger on the source of my adoration. I think he has just grown on me over the past four years, mostly through his play. He is, hands down, the best skater I have seen in a long time. If I could sneak into his team’s practice and watch him skate around and around the rink, I would be happy. Add to his skating prowess the fact that he can see the entire ice, identify a play and block a score in a matter of seconds, well, you can imagine just how impressive that is. When you factor in a stint as Captain of Team Canada, which won its 5th consecutive gold medal in the World Junior Championships this year, the admiration only grows stronger. Everything I’ve heard about him describes a nice young man who has his head screwed on straight. In short, a young man you would not be afraid to take home to meet Mom and Dad.

I’ve been spoiled. I’ve had access to these two guys for the last four years, along with all the other fans of the two teams that have them in their lineups. But after this season is over, they’ll both be gone, hopefully on to the NHL level, where I will have to continue subscribing to NHL Centre Ice in order to watch them play.

Well, one of my crushes is already gone. His team traded him away earlier this season. Since then, I’ve had to follow his career on his new team’s website, or go to a game when his team plays one of the two local teams. The other one would have been gone last summer, called up to the NHL team which drafted him, but ankle surgery kept him out of their lineup, and back here for another season. I’ll lose them both after this season, though, because whether their NHL teams call them up or not, they cannot play at the WHL level next year. They will be too old.

So, I take advantage of the time I have left this season to watch them play, and no matter where they end up, I will follow their careers, along with scores of their other fans. But when you think about it, isn’t that what sports is all about? Not just hockey, but all sports? You may like a team because they’re in your hometown. You may like a team because someone you love likes them. But once you start liking a team, a player or two inevitably starts to grow on you, and you end up becoming their fan, along with the team. Anyone who tells me that this isn’t true is either not telling the truth, or not a true fan!

You may wonder why I have not named my two crushes in this blog. I don’t think I need to. Those of you who are familiar with the teams will know exactly who I’m talking about. To those who don’t know, it’s not important. This story is not about liking these guys as people, but liking them as players. And I’m sure you can fill in whatever blanks there are, with players of your own choosing. Because isn’t that what makes us fans?

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