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Above the Glass

A Christmas Hockey Story

One of my holiday traditions is watching the 24-hour marathon of "A Christmas Story," a timeless classic that has stood the test of time since it was originally released in theaters 30 years ago. After 24 hours of eating, drinking and watching this nostalgic film based on author Jean Shepherd’s childhood, I’ve come to realize that its plot, characters and dialogue are a lot like hockey.

Ralphie. The central protagonist of "A Christmas Story" spends the entire film wishing for and plotting to get the must-have item on his Christmas list, a Red Ryder 200 shot range model air rifle. When his wish is granted, it takes all of one shot to realize that indeed, he could shoot his eye out. But who can resist watching the story of a young boy’s dream come true, even if it only lasts for a few minutes. Like Ralphie, young hockey players spend their entire lives in pursuit of their dreams; notably, being drafted and signed by the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup. Like Ralphie’s dream of getting the Red Ryder 200 shot range model air rifle, it doesn’t always turn out quite the way they planned. Prospects taken in the first round get signed, only to be traded away in a blockbuster deal or players touted as the first overall pick fall to fourth. You can’t resist watching their story either; because the player who goes through adversity or gets drafted late in the game often turns out to be the hero.

Scut Farkas. The resident bully of Hohman with a good hockey name regularly taunts and tortures the neighborhood children, until Ralphie finally stands up to him, beating him up in front of their classmates. In hockey, Scut Farkus would find gainful employment as either a pest or an enforcer. 

Triple dog dare. What one player says to an opponent to goad him into a fight. Once a player has triple dog dared the other, the recipient has no choice but to man up and get into the fight.  

Red Ryder 200 shot range model air rifle. In hockey, Ralphie’s prized gift is better known as The Stanley Cup. Like the rifle, if a player drinks out of it during locker room celebrations and his teammates don’t have a good grip on it, he could put somebody’s eye out.

FUUUDGE. When Ralphie uses the dreaded word in front of his father, he is forced to sample a bar of soap afterwards. The f-word is used approximately every 2 seconds in hockey, every .10 of a second during OT or playoffs. If the league issued punishment that equaled Mrs. Parker’s, the soap industry would have to crank out at least quadruple the quantity of product they produce today.

Tell Santa what you want for Christmas. The hockey equivalent occurs when players tell their agents what kind of deal they want on free agent frenzy day.

Fra-gee-lay. Ralphie’s father mispronounces fragile when he receives an award/ugly lamp that is later broken by his wife accidentally on purpose, setting off the “Battle of the Lamp” that lives in infamy. Here in the Dub, broadcasters occasionally mispronounce players’ last names, or they use another player’s last name altogether, as happened recently when a broadcaster called Winterhawks rookie Ethan Price by the name of a Seattle Thunderbirds player: Ethan Bear.

Merry Christmas Ralphie! In the end, Ralphie gets his coveted gift, but his dreams of grandeur are dampened somewhat when he learns that indeed, he could shoot someone’s eye out. Here in the junior leagues, we get the privilege of watching young hockey players achieve their dreams of making it to the NHL, even if it does mean a few blackened eyes and other injuries along the way. Like the 24-hour marathon of "A Christmas Story," every minute of it is worth watching.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com