Wednesday, June 12, 2013
I sure wish I liked hockey
Maybe that isn't big news where you are. In Chicago, however, the Blackhawks are dominating the sports pages, the news pages, the features pages (did you know that, tonight, Bob Gertenrich of Skokie will attend his 2152nd straight Blackhawks game in person? did you know he started this streak in 1966 at the old Chicago Stadium when he was 19?), and even the business pages. Blackhawks flags festoon the County Building this morning and I saw men, women and children wearing Indian head sweaters or hats (or both) as I was coming into work.
The whole town seems bursting with hockey-infused civic pride.
But I don't like hockey.
It's not that I haven't tried. When I was a kid I'd listen to Lloyd Pettit call the Hawks games on the radio but I couldn't make any sense of it. I learned just enough to appreciate that Bruce Wolf did a pretty fair imitation of Lloyd Pettit back in the day. In college I went to some games (my school had a club team). I thought I might understand it better if I saw it in person. But it didn't take.
I know people who like hockey. One of my many ex-partners (whose son was a gifted hockey player) once told me that the only thing worse than having a kid who likes hockey is having a kid who's good at it. I told my cousin that when his two sons began to seriously take up the sport.
Little kids will have practices at 4:00am because that may be the only time that the ice is available. As a baseball parent, I schlepped my sons from the far north suburbs to the far south suburbs and groused about it. Hockey parents not only get up in the middle of the night for practice, they take their kids to Minnesota, Michigan, and even into Ontario -- and they like it.
But I just can't get into it.
This time around, I've taken to reading about hockey. Youngest Son has a subscription to Sports Illustrated and I've read a lot of hockey articles in the past few months as playoff fever began to build in Chicago. I noted with interest a recent column by Steve Rushin, who said that the famous Indian head logo that the Blackhawks use was designed in the 1920s by Irene Castle, then the wife of Frederic McLaughlin, the first team owner. McLaughlin named his new club for the 86th Infantry "Blackhawk" Division, the outfit in which he'd served during World War I. Rushin wrote that Irene Castle "introduced Americans to the bob haircut and the foxtrot" before designing the Indian head.
Ah, yes, I said to myself, Irene Castle. I remember now: The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, the last movie that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together, and the only one filmed in color. I watched that -- once. Not a lot of laughs in the story of the two most famous ballroom dancers at the start of the 20th Century, not when British-born Vernon goes off to join the Royal Flying Corps and gets killed in a training accident.
Did you notice? I just can't stay focused on hockey.
Hockey strikes me as soccer on ice, only with sticks. I remember that Knute Rockne didn't much care for hockey; he didn't want the sport adopted at Notre Dame because he couldn't endorse any game where Irishmen were armed with clubs.
I'm happy for all the hockey fans, old and new. I feel like I'm missing out on something, but I just can't get into it. I wish I could.