Above the Glass
by Samantha on 01/24/13 at 07:21 PM ET
The long overdue start of the NHL regular season means that it's time to put hockey first for a while and everything else second or third. The challenge is helping our non-hockey appreciating friends, family and colleagues understand that they too can benefit from our priorizting the game above all else. I have come to realize over the years that putting hockey first ultimately makes us, kinder, more supportive partners or spouses, better team players and better people in general. That’s why I’ve devised a list of semi-bulletproof explanations for those non-hockey appreciators in our lives who need a little convincing on this point.
It makes us nicer and more tolerant human beings. Case in point: the lockout. I don’t recall meeting any fellow hockey fans who suddenly became kinder, gentler more patient people during the NHL’s latest debacle. Second case in point: the off season, the onset for fans of depression, boredom and marking the days until hockey starts again. The next time non-appreciators start nagging you about the number of hours you invest in hockey just remind them “remember what I was like during the lockout?” (specific details and photographic evidence can be employed to prove this point) and give them a moment to think about it. Et voila! end of argument .
It makes us better team players. It really doesn’t matter what you do for a living, nearly every boss in the world will say “you need to be a team player” if you want to keep your job. Which is why it can be a tad challenging to tell them that "no, I don’t have time to work on Saturday because I’m at a game," or "I can’t do post-work drinks to discuss sales strategy because I’m meeting friends for a pre-game beer." This is where hockey can come in handy. Like any sport, the fundamental reason hockey fans unite is the same: we love the game. No matter our differences in other aspects of life, when standing on the common ground of hockey we all get along. It’s what corporate America calls a transferrable job skill. In short, learning to get along with others in hockey teaches us how to do so at work. Being a team player isn’t about getting drunk with colleagues or working late because someone else’s lack of planning became your emergency. It’s about diplomacy, negotiation and putting aside differences for the common good; skills that fans acquire every time we interact with fellow fans at the rink.
Imperfection is beauty. In life, beauty and perfection are considered equal. Not so in hockey, where scars, fights, bruises, playing through pain, creative use of four letter words, torn jerseys, and bloody broken noses are worn with defiant pride by players and are admired accordingly by fans. Ironically, players who are scarred and beat up are the ones we admire the most, because they sacrificed for their team, they fought in defense of teammates and they endured through adversity. If only our youth and perfection-obsessed culture saw things the same way. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love the game so much: nobody’s perfect. Neither is hockey. That doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. It's the same with family and friends. They aren't perfect, but we love them anyway. This point should be easy to argue: by loving a sport that is imperfect, we become more accepting and tolerant of others’ flaws and imperfections.
We become better negotiators. This one’s probably more relevant for those who also play or coach hockey and who are therefore dealing with referees. Being a good hockey coach or player also means that from time to time you need to be a good negotiator. All those skills you gain talking a ref down off a five minute major ledge can be put to very good use in situations like talking your way out of speeding tickets, negotiating a better selling price on a home, haggling with repair people and contractors and getting small children to take naps. If you can have a conversation with a by the book referee and live to tell about it, you can negotiate your way through anything in life.
Next up on 1/25: Seth Jones, NHL Superstar or NFL Quarterback?
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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