Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Winter Warriors

When it comes to die hard sports fans, there is always a time of year that they dread. For hockey fans, that time is just beginning now as the free agent frenzy dies down into the doldrums of summer. 
I have been asked alot about what my summer vacation will be. Summer does have good things. Time off from school. Alot more time to hang out with friends. 
To us die hard hockey fans, summer is the worst. We sit and wait and wait until the doors of our favorite arena open back up to welcome us home (no matter what the price is). We eagerly wait for the familiar voices to come over the radio or television to give us play by play. 
But we await to see our boys on the ice. That first home game where each player is introduced to the raucous crowd that is your home team. Familiar team favorites are welcomed back with applause and and a roar as they salute the crowd. Guys that maybe weren't the favorite last year are given another chance (even if it isn't a big one). The new faces get introduced to their new home crowd, usually met with thunderous applause. As the puck drops you begin to forget about the last season because you are so caught up in the moment of the first game thinking about the long season ahead. 
It is anything but long to hockey fans. The season zooms by like a speeding bullet. Before you know it, the All Star game approaches and then the trade deadline. Then the stretch run to that second season, all passed by in an instant. Team move up and down the standings. 
And then, it is the playoffs. 
When all is said and done, odds are that your team isn't the champion. Even if you are the Detroit Red Wings, there is that inherent fear that your team won't make it all the way even though it seems like they are destined to do so. And when it happens, it is the worst feeling, knowing you won't see your team again until the fall. 
So we come to this point where the real grind starts here in the latter half of July. Hockey news seems to vanish except for a whisper and a murmur here or there. Fans on the internet message boards begin to talk about the most random things to help quell their insanity. And then, when a small scrap of news happens, it is pounced on and looked at from every single possible angle within a matter of minutes. 
But then, it is back to the dull existence of a summer die hard hockey fan. Sure there is the beach, pools, late night stay ups, and alot of fond memories made. Holidays are celebrated with family and barbeque smells fill the air wherever you go. Baseball is in full swing (no pun intended) and is the only thing on ESPN (not that any hockey fans watch it).
To everyone, you can have your beaches, your warm weather vacations. You can have all the barbecues you want. Baseball can take those baseball bats and shove it. 
We die hards want to be in a cold rink where years of beer spillage and cheap hot dogs fill the air with the greatest smell ever. We want to sit in our favorite chairs that many of us have sat in since we were just kids. You see old friends who you know only through hockey games but are some of the best friends you have. As your favorite team takes the ice for the first time, its like seeing your best friend for the first time in months. 
But for now, we hockey die hards have to wait. And wait. And wait some more through the boring baseball days, the warm weather, the sun burn, and the barbecues. 
I want bitter cold winter while just wearing a T-shirt and a hockey jersey. Give me weather so cold I can see my breath and when you go outside for the first time, your hair freezes from just coming out of the shower. I want winds that are so brisk, that you have to turn your face away. Frozen hands and feet are a welcome feeling to me all for one reason. I know hockey season is starting. 
You know why the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year? Because its hockey season. 
But for now we diehards wait. And I keep saying die hards for a reason. And I keep saying die hards for a reason. Hockey die hards are everywhere. Some follow other sports during the season and offseason which is great because they become a broader fan of sports. But for those of us that have no real interest in other sports, especially during the offseason, it is worse
We may casually pay attention because we have nothing else to do but nothing more. We are the ones who eagerly wait for schedules to come out so we can circle all the games we will be able to go to. We keep track of player numbers and order that new jersey for the new season. And then we wait. Every night we go to sleep is the best feeling, knowing it is one day closer to hockey season. One day closer to going home. 
For those of us that write on hockey, this time of year is tough as topics to keep our readers entertained are few and far between as the predictions are written up. But every now and then we do find something good to write about.
So for my fellow die hards, I wish you well in surviving the grueling month of August that is certainly going to be a bear as we wait as our good friend Kari Lehtonen is waiting on top of his goal. If it helps, just go to your air conditioner and put your hands up to it until you can feel that numbing cold and maybe, just maybe, you will get a little bit of that feeling of happiness back as your hands become numb. 

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