That first slap of cold air across my face in late September stirs me up like you wouldn’t believe. Or maybe, if you’re a puck-nut like me, you get it. It’s sharp and sudden, especially after ten weeks of heat and humidity. There’s suddenly wind – not a breeze but real gusting wind. The first squadrons of leaves skitter over pavement; if the vectors are right the rural reek of pigs invades my mostrils as I walk through my edge-o’-the-burbs neighborhood wearing jeans and long sleeves for the first time in months.
When all this bombsrds over me, I grin like a preschooler delighted with his Duplo architecture – a big goofy smile full of teeth and strain from the sheer joy of basking in the advent of hockey season. That’s right, hockey! Say it like that, like you love it! I know I do. The slap of a shot! The flat crack of a tape-to-tape pass! The grunts, the cheers, the yells from a ref booming out over the rasp and schick of metal blades gliding over perfect ice. It’s magnificent, and it’s just the beginning.
For the next nine months, I get to mispronounce the word, “offence” and wind up all my questions with a surperbly Canadic, “eh?” I’ll talk smack about Detroit, St. Lou, Dallas and a bunch of other ratshit cities, quote stats, rave about Wayne Gretzky, and ride the season rollercoaster of my beloved Blackhawks. I’ll cheer streaks, swear about bad calls, wear my white sweater for home games because I’m old-school, worry about role players and young guns working hard enough, boo Gary Bettman (even if he’s been damn good for the game), drool over outdoor games, and then…then! After all that, half the league goes home and the playoffs give me the sports equivalent to a two-month-long orgasm. As many as three games play on separate screens all around me – on my phone, my tablet, and my TV, every night for almost sixty days. It’s a glut, after a marathon, and it all comes after that first gust, that first cool caress that predicts this very evening, at 6pm, when the whistle blows and the puck drops for the first time up in Ottawa.
I know where I’ll be. How about you?