Soon after we moved to New Glasgow, I mentioned in conversation to our new neighbour that we werenât really sports fans.
âReally?â she asked. âNot even hockey?â
Well, of course, we liked hockey, I told her. What redblooded Canadian doesnât like the occasional game of hockey? But thatâs just it the occasional game. We didnât follow the sport and we didnât play it.
âYouâre in the wrong place then,â she told me. âHockey is huge here in Pictou County.â
I didnât think much of it at the time. This is, after all, Canada, and hockey is huge everywhere. But now that weâve been here a few years, I understand what she meant. The love for Canadaâs favourite winter sport runs deep and true here, a wellspring that shows its force in both team support and participation. Sometimes I feel like we are the only family in the county whose kid doesnât play hockey.
As I said, I like the occasional game. Sitting in a cold rink, with hot french fries in my mittened hands and a blanket over my lap, I cheer as loudly as anyone, as long as Iâm not in danger of spilling my fries. And I do actually know a (very) little about the game, since in one of my former lives I used to report on sporting events for local radio.
Basically, I donât care about hockey, until I do. Iâm not alone. How many people who normally never talk about the sport tweeted or Facebooked their reactions to our recent gold medal victories? I can guarantee you that a significant number of them didnât watch hockey a few weeks ago and wonât care about it two weeks from now. Thatâs got to be fairly annoying to true fans who stick with their sport through thick and thin. Iâm imagining it must be something like the annoyance I felt when one of my alltime favourite books, Tolstoyâs âAnna Kareninaâ, received a sticker from a certain talk show hostâs book club and suddenly everyone had a copy.
But, really, I got over those feelings pretty quickly, because in the end it meant more people were reading it, and that was a great thing. I hope true hockey fans have similar patience with those of us who just tune in for the good parts. Our sense of national pride is no less fervent for being sporadic. Maybe itâs the same type of instinct that makes people come together in a crisis; the recognition that, for good or bad, weâre all in this together. Hockey is our sport, and Iâm sure even the most disinterested citizen felt a twinge of pride after that fantastic womenâs gold medal game.
Itâs not a matter of being a fairweather fan. The reason weâll go back to not following the sport is because it was never really about the hockey. Itâs about cheering on Canada.
So Pictou County shouldnât expect to start seeing the Whistlers shopping for kidsâ hockey gear anytime soon. Nevertheless, you can expect to see me, and a lot of others like me, indulging in some goodnatured gloating about our medal count, and enjoying a Crushers or Mooseheads game once in a while.
And if youâll be understanding about my less than constant devotion to hockey, Iâll even share my rink fries.
- Susan Whistler is a local writer and co-creator of the children's book, "The Great Crow Party." She enjoys her family, walks by the ocean, and perfectly placed apostrophes. She can be found online at www.susanwhistler.com. â