I attended an Anaheim Ducks hockey game recently and during intermissions I talked to a few fans. My 'Brothers'! HAHAHA. It was a wild game (which the Ducks won) and I enjoyed the company of my fellow fans..... Hockey freaks like me. Some observations from my stroll:
I have no patience with people who are always making fun of stuff. I consider myself above that — a thoughtful critic and a discerning contrarian. I like Led Zeppelin better than the Stones. I find Emily Mortimer far more fetching than the highly regarded Jessica Alba. I like south better than north. I like mildew better than mold.
I am the antithesis of hip. Did you know, for instance, that Nike pays me $1 million a year not to wear their clothes? Kidding, but I wish!
So, naturally, I am drawn to hockey, America's best not-ready-for-prime-time sport.
What's so great about hockey? It's played by men who couldn't make it through a metal detector. They fight like pirates and skitter along the ice on knives. The only way hockey could be more lethal is if everyone were packing a gun. Now there's a sport America could embrace. Talk about shootouts.
Until then, we have the NHL.
I've been following this sport since the days of the Bobbys — Hull and Orr — and I've always liked hockey crowds best. They must be our most misunderstood fans, and not just because they down a beer like a four-inch piece of pipe, though that could be a contributing factor.
Hockey never gets the coverage it deserves primarily because the puck (roughly the size of a wine cork) is not well suited to television. Remember when they attempted to highlight the puck by giving it its own heavenly aura? There was a lesson for everyone: Not even God could save televised hockey.
But in person, hockey is another sport entirely: fast, fickle, furious. To truly appreciate this highly demanding sport, you have to be there, as the wine cork flips and giggles across the ice, defying the stabs of angry men who keep plowing into each other at highway speeds. It's like trying to catch a hamster with a soup spoon.
Imagine the coldest night you ever spent at the Hollywood Bowl and that's the way Anaheim's Honda Center felt the other evening, when the Kings came to visit the Ducks. I had to drink cold beer just to stay a little warm.
As a discerning critic, let me just ask this: Ducks playing hockey? That's so Anaheim, where animals are never merely animals, they're merchandizing agreements.
We don't need to get into the genealogy behind the Duck name, except to say it's based on a Disney movie starring Emilio Estevez. A few years ago, the Mighty Ducks shortened their name and won a Stanley Cup. Now they're just the Ducks. And they perform in Anaheim. I just can't seem to get over that.
In the other corner this night, we have the Kings — the Yankees to their Mets. After more than 40 years, the Kings don't have a Cup. They once had Wayne Gretzky, and they still couldn't win the Cup. That's like having Babe Ruth and not winning the World Series. Or Michael Jordan and not getting a ring. Or Emilio Estevez and not winning a best picture Oscar.
Still, the Kings fans are a loyal bunch, as only hockey fans can be. They bark and grunt and slather and belch. That's how hockey fans display their love. If they really like you, you'll get a thunderous chest thump. OUCH!!!!! Who says romance is dead?
Bunch of hockey pucks. And I love them all.
Well, there is this one guy.... Buck, or something!
"Jon-a-thannnnnnnnnnn!" he bellows at the Kings gatekeeper, Jonathan Quick. "Jon-a-thannnnnnnnnnn!"
In the fine art of badgering opposing goalies, the big dude in Section 420 is Pavarotti. It's not just the foghorn timbre of his voice, it's the operatic way he wraps a man's name with derision and scorn.
"You're really good," I tell the guy.
"I really like to get after the goalie," he explains.
"You think he hears you?"
"When Ilya Bryzgalov was our goalie, I used to talk to him in Russian."
"You speak Russian?"
"I can order a beer ... in 30 countries."
"WOW! You travel a lot?"
Between periods, I ask another one of these hockey pucks, a guy named Vinnie, about what makes hockey so special. Besides the crazy loyalty of the crowds. Besides the fan-friendly players. Besides the fact you can actually find an affordable ticket.
"We sort of see it as a cult sport," he says , sporting a fake mustache resembling that of the lunatic Ducks winger George Parros, who also may be wearing a fake mustache, hard to tell. You remember him. I blogged about him a few days ago.
"It's our own little world," the fan explains. "There is no better live sport to watch than hockey."
I won't argue with that at all.
By the way, George Parros, the Ducks 'enforcer' actually scored 2 goals. He hadn't done that since his Junior Hockey years. He ended up with a 'Gordie Howe Hat Trick'!! One goal, one assist and one fight!!! He also was named Star of the Game!! Way to go Georgie!!!!!!