Thursday, May 17, 2007


Birth of a hockey fan

So we're not exactly sporty people. Beloved, bless his literate artsy heart, couldn't care less about the difference between an infield fly and a hanging curveball. The athletic education of the boys has fallen largely to me, which, if you know me at all, is pretty darn funny. Pity my poor boys, who are just now learning how to catch and have yet to have their first experience standing on ice skates, let alone actually learning to skate.

But this exciting spring, with playoff fever spreading like malaria through the capital, I've taken it upon myself to teach them the finer points of bandwagon hockey fandom. I'm a professional in this particular sport. I can count on one hand the number of regular season hockey games I've watched in their entirety, but each year as the lilacs bloom I find myself glued to the screen, cheering on the home team. (In no small part, I'm sure, because in my heart Sens playoff hockey is hopelessly tangled with one of our best family memories.)

I've never lived in a city with a championship team before. I was a rabid Blue Jays fan in 1992 and 1993 when they won the World Series - I barely missed a single game of the entire 162 game regular season in 1992 - and when they won they weren't just Toronto's team but Canada's team. But we were still five hours down the road from Toronto and although I made my way downtown to the massive victory party in the Byward Market when they won, it still wasn't quite the same.

There's something charming about how a winning home-town team brings the community together. The plethora of cars with Sens flag whipping in the wind, the home-made signs on lawns and windows, the otherwise staid civil servants wearing hockey jerseys over their business suits. The Sens are within a single victory of their first-ever Stanley Cup playoff in modern history; how could an irrepressible joiner like me resist feeding off of - and feeding in to - that energy?

A couple of weeks ago, when the Sens made the first round of the playoffs, I started talking to Tristan about hockey, and about the Sens. I knew his schoolmates would be talking hockey, and I wanted him to be able to join in the conversation. Yesterday, with the Eastern Conference final on the line, I asked they boys if they wanted to watch the game with me. (Simon used to be a Leafs fan, back in the day.) To my great entertainment, Tristan was beside himself with excitement, counting down the minutes to the puck drop.

We stood together in the living room, trying to sing along with the national anthem. Well, Tristan did a fine job singing along, but I could barely croak out the words around the lump of pride in my throat. The national anthem chokes me up at the best of times (I'm such a sentimental patriot), but standing there hand in hand with my boys, watching the Sens in front of the madly cheering hometown crowd, was just one of those moments.

The goal nine seconds into the game didn't dampen Tristan's enthusiasm in the least. He watched the first period with a rapt attention that surprised me, and in between muttering encouragement to the players on the screen he even composed a little song about the Sens winning. It was, in a word, adorable.

He only agreed to go to bed at the end of the first period after I promised to tell him the score as soon as he woke up the next morning. His disappointment at the loss was mollified by the promise of a daytime game on Saturday, one he could watch in its entirety.

Make room on the bandwagon - I'm off to see if I can find a Sens jersey, size extra-small.

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