When I was growing up, baseball was the only sport in Baltimore. It's the sport I know best and the sport I'll always love most. But my interest in the NFL has faded to almost nothing, so it seems time to give another winter sport a try. Will it be hockey or basketball? Or neither?
I know the basic rules of hockey. Skate around, pass the puck, get it into the goal. There is something called icing. I don't know what that means but whenever anyone says it I imagine a hockey player stopping on his skates very quickly so that a spray of ice flies into the face of another player. Is that what it is? Also, is there offsides in hockey? I know that there isn't a toepick.
Prior to watching tonight's game my entire exposure to hockey has been multiple viewings of the Mighty Ducks movies, The Cutting Edge which is actually about figure skating, and one in-person Capitals game that I attended in November of 2008. Alex Ovechkin had a hat trick in that game, but I liked the guy named Semin, because LOL!
On TV, this game was hyped from the start as a matchup between Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and Sydney Crosby of the Penguins. I have heard both of those names, which means so far, so good.
I wasn't let down by the righteous booing of Crosby as he took center ice (is that the right term? It sounds right) for the ceremonial puck drop. It's like he's the Mark Teixeira of hockey. Both Crosby and Ovechkin shook hands with each other and a youngster named Sam who was celebrating 16 months of being cancer free. Well done, Sam!
One thing I remember liking from the one hockey game I went to was how they turn down the house lights and turn up the flashing red lights and spotlights to get everyone hyped for that game. It seems like indoor sports have an advantage in things like that to make the game more of an experience. Of course there are very few times in a baseball game when the crowd could be considered frenzied.
When the game started I was immediately confused. It's hard to keep track of where the puck is, and I've already decided that if I'm going to become a hockey fan I'll need to always watch on a huge TV. I also don't know any of players, but even if I did I cannot tell who is who. I was told to keep an eye out for yellow laces, because that means it's Ovechkin. But I cannot pick out any laces, everyone is moving too fast.
This is an extremely obvious statement, but hockey just moves so much faster than baseball that it was hard for me to adjust. In a baseball game I can talk to my husband, comment on Camden Chat, go get a drink, or play online Scrabble without missing anything. I recognize that's the very reason that a lot of people think that baseball is boring, but for a sport that is with you every single day for six months, you need that kind of pacing.
As I watched my first hockey game I felt like I couldn't take my eyes off the screen because what if I missed the goal because I looked away for a second to take a sip of my diet coke? It actually made me a little anxious, but eventually I learned to rely on the announcers. If they start getting loud, pay attention! Of course nine times out of 10 it seems like that means a horde of people are surrounding a goal and you can't really tell what's going on and then nothing happens.
Speaking of that, the first exciting part of the game happened about five minutes in when the Caps were all huddled near the goal. This guy was passing! And this guy was shooting! And this guy was shooting! It was fun, but they didn't score a goal so that was a letdown. I hope that hockey isn't like soccer where you're lucky if you see two goals the entire night.
At one point in the game, about 7 minutes in, the Caps had two guys in the penalty box at one time. I missed the first foul completely, but the second foul was a guy just barreling into a guy up against the boards while his back was turned. Is that run of the mill? Because I don't like it. Then, as soon as one of the Caps got out of the penalty box, another one got sent in. Man, those refs really had it in (or not) for the Caps tonight!
An icing call was made, and I still didn't know what it meant but it's definitely not when one hockey player stops really fast and sprays ice all over another guy. Luckily my Camden Chat compatriots in the World Series game thread were able to help me out, so I now know at least one rule in hockey.
Random thought, are there black hockey players? I haven't seen any so far.
No baseball game is more boring to me than a pitchers' duel. Sometimes if you're watching a game with a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw it can be entertaining because of how swoony his pitches are. But more frequently it's just two teams with chances to score but who don't capitalize, which is boring to me.
That's how the first two periods of last night's game felt. I could be wrong since I have no frame of reference, but it felt like the Caps early on had plenty of chances (more than the Penguins) and just couldn't get the puck into the goal. I suppose some credit has to go to both goalies, but a game without scoring is always going to bore me.
That all changed in the third period. The Caps finally scored a few minutes into the third period and it was exciting! I actually woo'd a little bit! But before the crowd even had time to finish celebrating, the Penguins tied it up. And then like a minute later, they went ahead. It was a huge letdown to go from a two-period stalemate to one brief moment of happiness to that. That was another new feeling for me since even the quickest turnarounds in baseball at least take place ½ an inning later.
The final bit of humiliation happened when the Caps pulled their goalie with two minutes left. He barely had one foot off the ice when the Penguins scored the third goal of the game. Oops. I suspect this is one of those strategy things that happens all the time, but considering these two teams had already scored three goals in less than 2 ½ minutes earlier in the game, is that really a good idea? That's my bit of analysis on this sport that I barely know.
Like when I watch football, I could tell that there were a lot of things going on that I couldn't really explain. Maybe watching more would clear a lot of that up, but I did feel the emotional side of things. The excitement when there is a scrum of players near the goal taking shots, the surprised elation when one of those goals goes in, the frustration of watching the clock wind down and know that your team is already out of time. There were things that weren't my style, too, such as not being able to see the players faces, the hard hits, and the one fight that broke out for a few seconds.
Would I watch hockey again? I think maybe I would. I know I'd enjoy going to a game in person, so maybe that'll be my next step.