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Outdoor hockey

Sunday 1/8/23

I am not a fan of outdoor NHL and college hockey games. I don't like them at all. I think they're stupid, actually. A waste.

I watched some of the Bruins the other day at Fenway, and BC last night as well. The truth is, I like a good rink. I like the atmosphere of a rink. I like the enclosed feeling of a rink. The smells of the rink. It's like when you take swimming lessons as a kid. You get to the pool, you smell the chlorine, and you get nervous. The heart goes faster. Anything that touches on that smell later in life conjures the same feelings of anticipation.

You're not scared--but you're alive, you're about to have an experience. There is something cave-like about the indoor pool, and also the rink. The rink is brighter. Usually. Not always. It's not brighter at pre-dawn hockey practices before school, or during the middle of the night with the beer league game. The rink then takes on a flashlight quality.

I don't think hockey games at baseball stadiums make for good TV viewing. If you know the game and you look for the telltale components of the game, you can't follow them as well with the sight lines. And there is such an atmosphere to a hockey rink, at the high school level on up. Or there can be. The roof always feels low, you have this hothouse sensation--without feeling hot--of being tamped in with other people. Everyone experiences a sort of third person version of the big hit along the boards and shares a communal reaction.

Think of Robert Mitchum in The Friends of Eddie Coyle. It wouldn't have been the same if he said, "Number four, Bobby Orr," outside at Frozen Fenway, would it have been?

The game needs nothing else other than to be that game in that place. It doesn't require the Green Monster off to the side. The game is the monster. The atmosphere adds to what we observe the monster to be doing.

There's a compact at the rink. A feeling of belonging. Of being in on something with other people. The word "in" is key. Not out. In. The stands at a rink have the quality of a tavern, and also a community center. The wind is not in your face. The game is. Players don't play the same way outdoors, either. You get a lesser hockey product. I think of it the same as going to see a play and there are a lot of understudies treading the boards on that night. Oh well--you have the ticket and it's the same play, but there is still that substitution vibe.

The outdoor hockey game is an exhibition that counts at a neutral site with the fans far removed from the action and no atmosphere. Like most things in our age, it is for show, not substance. And also like most things in our age, it's now wholly unoriginal and done as unimaginative parroting.

It also doesn't grow the game or make anyone care about hockey. It misrepresents the game, actually. And it undercuts the game, by making it seem like it has to rely on stoogery like this.

The outdoor game is passed off as this exercise in nostalgia. That's the pitch, the frame. I hate nostalgia. It's depressing.

Nostalgia says, "I'm a loser now, with an empty existence, and I'm lazy, and simple, and I'm fucking stupid, and I don't grow, I don't try, I talk about food a ton if I talk about anything, but life used to be cool a long time ago and so I think about the past that's like a dead person I haven't known in twenty years." I want to watch the hockey version of that and with inferior play? Move forward.

And the pond hockey thing? Pond hockey isn't hockey. It's shinny. Hockey is geometry; for hockey geometry, you need the rink, the boards, the spaces of the rink.


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