Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ice Hockey

Last night Mum and Dad took us to an ice-hockey game. The Vancouver Canucks were playing an exhibition match against the San Jose Sharks.
My word, do those men move FAST!
There doesn't seem to be much strategy involved.  The players are moving too fast for that-  swooping across the ice like swallows, slapping the puck into their blind side, relying on someone they can't possibly know is there to come swooping in and catch it and speed it on.

The game moved so fast, it took me most of a period to learn how to follow the action. One moment the puck was skimming across empty ice with six big burly guys in full chase - the next moment a check, a shove, then a scrum and gloves were being thrown on the ice and two big men were thumping the living daylights out of each other.
And Mum was on her feet - hollering and cheering them on.
            "Isn't this EXCITING?" She cried, her eyes shining. "Go get him, big guy! Whooooooo!"
            "Which one are we rooting for?"
            "Who cares? It's entertainment!"

It sure was. The brawl - and all the others after it - felt like canned fights, about as real as the WWF. The whole game felt faintly surreal. The arena was one vast free-market whammy of banners and flashing billboards and canned announcements and commercial breaks - every thirty-five seconds the game stopped so that the sponsor banners of the edges of the rink could be changed for others and so the broadcast of the game could show some advertisements. At the rink, we got the better end of the deal; gorgeous young people of both genders came out to scrape loose ice into buckets. They haven't quite gone so far as to paint THEM in corporate decals, but give it another five years, and they'll be sponsor-ed head to toe.

Squeezed in between all this advertising, the action down on the ice felt almost incidental. Admittedly, Mr Tabubil and I are living rather out of the loop when it comes to advertising. To our raw sensibilities this great big capitalistic barrage came as a bit of an onslaught, and the game felt as much about the sport as the original soap operas were serious about the dramatic possibilities of radio.

Ice hockey is the least sportsmanlike sport I've ever seen. The home team scores - the crowd shimmies and shakes and goes wild.  The visitors score - there's a cold, dead, resentful silence. The Canucks won this game. There was no shaking of hands, no nods of 'well played' across the ice. The Sharks simply got the hell off the ice and out of there as fast as possible.
            "What happens if the visitors win?" I asked Dad.
            "They get the hell out of there and off the ice as fast as possible." He said dryly. "Only more so."

With the Sharks gone, the Canucks weren't far behind. The game commentator announced two Players of the Match. One didn't bother to show, the other came out onto the ice, looking bored, did a quick circle of the patch of ice nearest to the tunnel, raised his glove without raising his eyes, and scarpered as fast as humanly possible.
I have honestly never seen this before. In Australia, when I watch rugby or AFL or netball or field hockey - hell, any sport really, you cheer for the skill, you acknowledge the win, you shake hands at the end, you remember - or you at least PRETEND - that the sport in question is something rather lovely in its own self. Not just a community pissing post.

All in all, I'm a bit ambivalent about ice hockey.

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