Hockey all the time

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Soon after we moved to New Glasgow, I mentioned in conversation to our new neighbour that we weren’t really sports fans.

“Really?” she asked. “Not even hockey?”

Well, of course, we liked hockey, I told her. What redblooded Canadian doesn’t like the occasional game of hockey? But that’s just it the occasional game. We didn’t follow the sport and we didn’t play it.

“You’re in the wrong place then,” she told me. “Hockey is huge here in Pictou County.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time. This is, after all, Canada, and hockey is huge everywhere. But now that we’ve been here a few years, I understand what she meant. The love for Canada’s 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 doesn’t 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 I’m 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 don’t care about hockey, until I do. I’m 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 didn’t watch hockey a few weeks ago and won’t care about it two weeks from now. That’s got to be fairly annoying to true fans who stick with their sport through thick and thin. I’m imagining it must be something like the annoyance I felt when one of my alltime favourite books, Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, received a sticker from a certain talk show host’s 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 it’s the same type of instinct that makes people come together in a crisis; the recognition that, for good or bad, we’re all in this together. Hockey is our sport, and I’m sure even the most disinterested citizen felt a twinge of pride after that fantastic women’s gold medal game.

It’s not a matter of being a fairweather fan. The reason we’ll go back to not following the sport is because it was never really about the hockey. It’s about cheering on Canada.

So Pictou County shouldn’t expect to start seeing the Whistlers shopping for kids’ 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 you’ll be understanding about my less than constant devotion to hockey, I’ll 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. ‘

Organizations: Great Crow Party

Geographic location: Canada, Pictou County, New Glasgow

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  • understanding mom
    March 05, 2014 - 07:46

    I totally understand where you're coming from. I have several kids and none of them are in hockey. They play other sports, but I have actually been shunned because I'm not a hockey mom. I've been told it was awful that I didn't put them in hockey. That I was holsing them back. I totally disagree. Hockey isn't everything. And people spend thousandsof dollars over the years for their kids to play...between sign up costs, equipment and travelling it becomes extremely expensive because everyone thinks their kid is the next Gretsky...and most ofbthem quit in highschool. I cheer on our Canadian teams in the olympics for sure....but I shouldn't be pressured to put my kids in hockey...and shunned because I made the choice not to...its rediculous.