I’ve been watching NHL hockey for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Montreal in the glory days of the Montreal Canadiens, I really had no choice. The city lived and breathed the game. Players like Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard became local legends. If you’re Canadian, you know what I mean. If not, I can’t explain it.
There’s a beautiful novel, The Divine Ryans by Wayne Johnston, that conveys the fascination of hockey in a wonderfully poetic way, while telling a poignant tale of a young boy’s coming of age. Like Draper Doyle Ryan in the novel, I hated being sent to bed after the first period, and I remember when I was first allowed to stay up to watch a whole game on TV. When the Soviet Union played Canada in the 1972 Summit Series, we watched in school, sitting on the edges of our seats. The teachers knew we weren’t going to get any work done anyway.
Back then I watched the Saturday night games with my father; now I watch with my hubby. Though DH considers the Toronto Maple Leafs his team (loyalty really can be taken too far), we’ve followed the career of Nova Scotia’s own Sidney Crosby with interest since he stepped onto the ice with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Crosby seems to one of those players who has a date with destiny. At twenty-four, he’s captured every honour hockey has to offer, including the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold, and he’s done so with as much class as athletic brilliance. So, last winter when he took a hit on the ice and ended up with a career-threatening concussion, I wondered if perhaps all that glory had come to him so soon for a reason. I imagine he wondered, too.
Last night, after almost a year of recovery, Sidney returned, with little advance notice. Networks scrambled to televise the game. The greatest player in hockey today didn’t disappoint. Five minutes into the first period he scored a highlight-reel goal. With millions reading his lips, he roared “f**k yeah!” while the crowd went ballistic. If the lights in the arena had gone out, no one would have noticed for the joy and relief lighting up his face.
Way to go, Sidney. It’s been a long year, but you’re back. Enjoy it. We will.