First off, I apologize if this column smells a little like fresh grapefruit and palm oil. This is coming to you from a balmy, unnamed Indian Shores Coffee Co. and prophetic little vacation spot and I’m pretty much in full Jimmy Buffett mode, minus the guitar, unkempt hair and ornery parrot (although curiously, there are pirates everywhere).
Yes, I’m in sunny Florida and – get this – I’m supposed to be writing a hockey column.
Before you start whining and berating me for writing another tired “Americans don’t get hockey” piece, please understand that I’ve – in this short time – come to understand and empathize with the plight of the southern American hockey fan (yes Virginia, there are some – although I’m doubting there are many in Virginia itself).
Thing is, being a hockey fan in a place like this is extremely difficult. Frankly, I’m pushing for the NHL to provide some sort of tax incentive for fans who live in places where the mean temperature is greater than 12 degrees Celsius (around 280 degrees Fahrenheit, I believe).
Liking hockey, following hockey, even finding hockey down here is damned hard work. The media doesn’t really cover it much. That’s old news. It’s regularly sandwiched in the newspaper somewhere between the “pretend” sports and the obituaries, which, I suppose, may be a telling sign in itself.
Trying to get a hockey score or seeing a game summary on TV is like trying to find an ant in a barrel of rice.
Basically, to find hockey down here is to find the treasure simply because you’re the one who buried it. Those who know nothing of it will be hard-pressed to accidentally find it.
I mean, what’s around to make a person, likely born with a great tan, discover hockey?
The very nature of the place – the predominant sun – runs against the very nature of hockey (and nature itself for that matter). Ice hates sun. Sun kills ice. Sun kills interest. I just can’t imagine a scenario in a place like this where a person suddenly decides to check in on the good old hockey game. There is no natural connection.
In all honesty, if it weren’t for the ice dying in the drinks piled in front of me, I’d even forget. There is so much distraction and white noise from the other sports, one can forgive a person for not automatically having a game - played by guys who wear helmets, carry lumber and swing at a polymer disk – at the top of their to-do list.
So, to you southern hockey fans - the ones who I continually cull for humorous material – I salute you.
Somehow, in the course of your daily, sun-drenched lives, you manage to put down the umbrella, turn off the sprinkler and head to the arena. The only difference between you and the traditional hockey fan is the shorts you’re wearing when you arrive, which may be, now that I think about it, the very source of your love for the game in the first place.
Bundled-up players on a cold sheet of ice wearing
shorts never seemed terribly logical – till now, that is.
It’s all starting to make sense.
Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.
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