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Above the Glass

The moral of the hockey story

In addition to being a full-bore hockey fan, I’m also a full scale sci-fi nerd. Which is how I came to be watching the Firefly marathon on the Science Channel yesterday whilst hunkering down for a blizzard here in Oregon. And it was then that I realized many of the morals of Firefly’s stories can be applied to hockey. If you’re new to this blog, welcome and one thing to know about me: I’ll find hockey truths in everything. Including 12 some odd episodes of a cult favorite sci-fi/Western TV series that was grounded before it had a chance to fly.

For coaches,GMs or players in need of a fresh perspective on the game, I have the answer.  Here’s how you can learn almost all you need to know about hockey from Firefly.

Serenity: The pilot episode introduces the characters to viewers, including Jayne, who isn’t exactly hired for his tact and diplomacy. Among the choice bits of dialogue is a moment when captain Mal Reynolds warns him “you will keep a civil tongue or I will sew it shut.” This would come in quite handy in hockey for refs and coaches who need to warn players like Sean Avery that while certain chirps and unprintable words are acceptable, racial and other slurs are not.

Shindig: Mal, Inara and Kaylee end up attending a fancy ball that ends in a sword fight in which Mal fights one of Inara’s clients to defend her honor. It’s a lot like the NHL awards, where players put aside the smelly gear and the foul language and the other uglier sides of hockey to get all gussied up and honorably accept the awards they have been nominated for. It’s important to remember that at the end of an ugly season, full of injury and insult, winning streaks and losing ruts and other miscellaneous adventures, at the end of it lies one night when you can put all that aside and have fun and be honored for the things you achieved. But then it’s time to party like a rock star, which is where this episode might come in handy:

Our Mrs. Reynolds: Mal wakes up after a night of celebration on a “dumb planet” to find that he is married to a local girl, with no memory of having done so. She turns out not to be an innocent pawn in a cargo payoff, but a scheming vixen with an evil plan to turn over Serenity to a salvage crew for money. She is ultimately foiled by Mal and his crew, but the moral here is know your limits and don’t go beyond them. Because what happens in Vegas may not stay there.

Jaynestown: Jayne returns to a town where he thinks he has made many enemies, only to find that he is a local hero. It reminded me a lot of the Camalleri trade, in which he sort of did the opposite. He probably made a few enemies in Montreal with those choice soundbites of his, but in his first game back with a team he once played for (Calgary Flames), he scored on a power play in his first game. Or take the case of Max Talbot, who went to the dark side when he signed with the Flyers. But thanks to his sincere loyalty to and love for Pittsburgh, and the sheer awesomeness of their fans, he received a warm welcome when he returned. Of course, in the Firefly episode Jayne’s real intentions and actions are discovered, but still. You can go home again, and sometimes it may be better than you thought.

Out of Gas: Mal stays with Serenity after it’s disabled to wait for help and recalls how he came to find the ship and its crew. In hockey, when players are injured, coaches and GMs must take stock of the healthy players they have left and change course to keep the team moving forward and winning. Coaches don’t necessarily go down with the ship the way Mal almost does, but an injured player can sometimes lead to a coach’s finest hour. Rescue in hockey comes in the form of the injured player(s) healing, but in the meantime the team must go on with the show. A lot like what Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have had to do this season in the wake of one injury after another to their players. No season goes totally smoothly for any team, just like no mission goes smoothly for the crew of the Firefly. But like Mal and his ragtag crew, these teams have perservered in the face of adversity with honor and dignity and a victory or two. In short, down doesn’t necessarily mean out.

War Stories: Zoe’s husband Wash goes on a mission with Mal, thinking he can handle it just as well as his wife, only to find that he’s gotten in way over his head. A good lesson for rookies like Sven Bartschi or others who get sent back to their junior teams in the first season after they are drafted: you may think you can handle the big time, but it’s bigger than you think and it’s better to join it when you are really and truly ready.

Objects in Space: In the final episode that aired, a bumbling bounty hunter is outsmarted by a teenage girl with psychic powers. The moral here is simple: never underestimate a woman. We could end up stealing your spaceship and kicking your butt into outer space.



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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