We All Squeezed the Stick and We All Pulled the Trigger.

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You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey,
I never saw someone say that before.

If I haven’t seen or talked to you much in the past few weeks, I do apologize. But it’s all hockey’s fault.

Even though the Colorado Avalanche didn’t make the playoffs this year, that hasn’t stopped me from watching and going absolutely all in. Both mine and Brad’s “B” Teams (the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild respectively) are currently embroiled in battles for Lord Stanley’s Cup. And on top of that, we’re both just nuts for the sport, which means we have favourites to win in just about every other series as well.

I’ve been a hockey fan since I was in diapers, and there are few things that bring me as much joy as watching hockey, whether it be on my couch, in a bar, or live in the stands. There’s a togetherness about hockey that has always made me feel comforted, like I’m home. There have been many evenings in my life spent watching hockey or attending games with my family and friends. My father fostered in me that love of hockey at an early age, and it’s only grown with time, and it’s a passion that I love to share with others as well.

I can’t count on my hands how many days and nights have been spent with friends in the presence of hockey. We’ve crammed ourselves onto couches far too small to hold all of us to watch Hockey Night in Canada TV. We’ve woken up at an ungodly hour of the morning to watch Team Canada play in the Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey. We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder in bars and in the streets, beers and hands clutched tightly in prayer to the Hockey Gods. We’ve shared high fives with strangers in arenas and made new friends for sixty minutes. We’ve driven 16 hours to cities in different provinces for a taste of NHL hockey, and wondered if we might end up dead in a sports bar in Montreal, because someone just had to wear their Leafs jersey.

But in addition to people who have been in my life for years now, hockey has also brought new people into my life, and brought me closer to people who I already knew. Being active on social media, and having a presence on the internet for so long, I’ve forged relationships with people in different cities, different countries, some than span over a decade now. And for whatever reason, a lot of them have gotten into hockey in the past couple of years. I’ve never bothered to ask why, I’m just happy to have more people to talk hockey with! It’s been a treat to help teach those people about the sport that I’ve known and loved for years, to help foster in them a love for it as well. And it’s brought additional people into my life, people who feel like fast friends. All it takes is capslocked excitement or dismay about a team or a particular play on Twitter, and to have someone respond with “Right!?” and suddenly a bond is forged.

On top of bringing me close to friends both old and new, it has been an absolute treat to be with someone who loves the sport as much as I do. I get that there are some Canadians that don’t like hockey, to each their own! But I’ve dated men in the past who were apathetic to the sport, or just plain didn’t like it. It was a strange thing to navigate. When you’re passionate about something and your partner doesn’t get it, or doesn’t care, it feels like losing a part of yourself. At the time, it made no sense to me to talk about hockey – why would I if I was just met with nods and noncommittal agreements? I was younger, thought I had to change for my relationships. I don’t do that anymore. But at the time, I felt like I had to quell a part of myself in order to be loved. If he didn’t like hockey, then I just wouldn’t talk about it around him. Can you imagine me doing that now? Yikes!

How lucky am I now that my partner loves hockey as much as I do (though he may be less inclined to yell things at the referees while there are children present)?

There are many things that Brad and I do together, but watching hockey with him might be one of my favourite things. Our afternoons and evenings as of late consist of bonding over the sport – talking about goals, about calls made on plays that we disagree with, trading stats and stories back and forth, making fun of the pinheads and whatever Don Cherry is wearing. No matter where we are, whether it’s in the stands or on the couch, watching hockey with Brad is some of the most fun I’ve had … even if he does cheer for the Red Wings.

Today, we watch with bated breath as the Minnesota Wild play the St. Louis Blues, in what could possibly be an elimination game (for the Wild). Obviously we’re both hoping the Wild pull through, but in the playoffs you make compromises. If your team doesn’t advance, you pick other teams to cheer for, teams that you perhaps wouldn’t cheer for otherwise. I normally don’t care much for the Maple Leafs, but I would be lying if I denied that I wasn’t shouting at the top of my lungs lately, hoping that they continue to defy all expectations and advance to round two.

Playoff hockey is strange that way. You make alliances with teams you wouldn’t normally, just to see another team fall, or because they’re the underdog. I have very little reason to cheer for the Nashville Predators when they play during the regular season, but you better believe I was yelling “Smashville!” as they swept the Chicago Blackhawks out of the playoffs in the first round.

It’s silly when you try to break it down. We’re yelling at people on knife shoes, chasing a black, rubber disk over a sheet of ice, poking it at with sticks. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You held my hand, and we walked home the long way.
You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr.

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