Hockey Help for Southerners and Other Ice-Uninformed

I have a confession to make. I love sports, but hockey makes me feel like a kitten chasing a laser pointer. I’m from the South, y’all: ice is for popsicles, not pucks.

But I respect the game immensely. Goalies dropping into splits Prince would admire. Giant men skating 30 miles an hour, or what’s harder – stopping. Hockey skates don’t have toe picks like figure skates do. Unless you can turn and dig in at a sudden 90 degrees, you will, like myself, spin yourself into a centrifugal seizure.

Couples skate, anyone?  (Patrick Sharp)

Couples skate, anyone? (Patrick Sharp)

In other words, hockey is the only sport that makes me feel like…a girl.

On the other hand, did I mention the giant men? Hockey orthodontics have improved quite a bit since “Slapshot” (one of my Best Romantic Sports Movies), ladies, I suggest you pay attention. May I present Exhibit A, Patrick Sharp, a captain for the Chicago Blackhawks who face the Boston Bruins tonight in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup?

For other tips on tonight’s game, I turned to Washington DC’s First Family of Hockey, and my favorite Washington Capitals season seatmates, the Labres: Yvon, former Caps captain and defensive legend whose jersey graces the Verizon Center rafters, and his son Cory, hockey genius and awesome sports dad to girls and boys.

Watch on a large flatscreen, in HD. I myself only dumped my analog box a few months ago, so if you don’t have one, go to a local bar. You see more of the ice, and the puck and jersey numbers are sharper. With a little practice, you can see plays develop and anticipate what will happen next. But…

Don’t sit too close. If you’re not used to hockey, watching the close-ups make it hard to follow.

I like to pick one type of play or rule and watch for it. We all see goals, but when you recognize an assist, a penalty, or a power play, it builds your confidence and you can apply that knowledge to more complex action.

Go skating. OK it may be too late for tonight’s game, but there could be a Game 7. You are more likely to appreciate a sport’s difficulty if you try it at the local rink, diamond, or just in the backyard with the kids.

Watch with someone who (like my boyfriend) plays the game and (NOT like my boyfriend) can calmly explain things even when his beloved Blackhawks are on the ropes, and I tell him don’t give up, and he stomps off frustrated, and they wind up winning (again) in overtime anyway, and I just laugh and laugh and laugh…

Pick a player to focus on, like Sharp or “Patrick Kane, USA born, and he is on fire,” says Cory. “Such fast, great hands and he controls the game–when he has the puck, they can’t catch him or hit him.” For the Bruins, center Patrice Bergeron is their best guy – if he’s healthy enough to play tonight.

Above all, have fun (and for my fellow Southerners – two months to FOOTBALL!)

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