Talks have dwindled into silence once again, as the NHL rejected the latest proposal, or compromise, or insinuation, or riddle, or whatever the Hell the players handed over to them this past week. Moreover, SI.com reports that, perhaps, NHL owners are stalling negotiations in hopes of ousting Don Fehr so as to chisel out a new contract in their favor. I hope Fehr doesn’t underestimate the power of fickleness, for as Machiavelli says, “He who builds on upon people builds on mud.” If the stars align, the players may very well throw him under the bus, all in the spirit of saving the season. But, I hope not. Imagine: now Fehr is the bad guy. I mean, now it’s not the greedy owners or stubborn players, but an inept union director? Oh, just stop it already.
Let me break it down like a fraction for you all, ladies and gentlemen: I took my daughters to CitiPond over at Bryant Park (NYC) this evening, let them feel their skates grove into the ice, revel in the sensation of the cool night air whisking through their hair, as they attempt to skate for the first time ever. EVER! Alas, they didn’t like it. Despised it, really. Ten falls and a couple of bruised bottoms later, I hugged them tightly and dropped on one knee and tried my best to convey that everything in life takes practice, love, and lots of patience. But most of all, love.
I LOVE HOCKEY. I want my daughters to love it just as much. More so. I want them to play hockey. (Mother doesn’t approve at all, but there’s time to convince her.) Show them the purity of the sport, etc. How am I to do the aforementioned when there’s no hockey? Tell me? Frustrated doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this damn strike. Are you kidding me? I had planned to take the family to see the Isles versus the Devils on December 26th. Yes, the day AFTER Christmas. I’ve always dreamed of it: my children coming off a wonderful Christmas day, filled with family, friends, food, presents, snow, etc. followed by a night of hockey at the Coliseum. Just like my dad and I did for years! Years. But to no avail.
What’s left to say? I cannot spin, weave, and/or concoct stories or reflections for a sport that is acting like a spoiled brat. I’m sorry, I know I don’t have the faintest clue about the legal aspects of the strike, but I cannot believe that the NHL/NHLPA haven’t been able to save hockey. SI.com can print its share of scenarios and elaborate upon who is at fault this go-around, but quite frankly I don’t care to read about it anymore. Seeing that sheet of ice tonight brought back so many memories that one point I teared up because I am passing on a tradition so dear to me. I played the damn sport for so many years and all of my childhood memories have hockey involved to some degree. Hockey, especially for a Latino from the inner city, set me apart from everyone in the ‘hood. I felt it [hockey] as something uniquely my own, for none of my cousins or closest friends even knew how to skate, or followed the sport. Hockey became an extension of my identity. Hockey became, especially in the 80s, a religion. If my daughters are to ever know the real me, hockey must make an appearance and stay with us forever. Tonight I took my first steps toward that goal. December 26th would’ve been step two. Press pause.
Let me explain what I mean: life is filled with edifying moments, if one is intuitive and attentive enough to grasp them. Understanding full well that there are a million more “meaningful” traditions to pass down to children (and don’t get me wrong, I have my share to impart, but hockey and the Islanders are within the top five most important) I wanted my daughters to feel the absolute JOY and FREEDOM a pair of ice skates can offer, not to mention the roar of a crowd, the speed and precision of the game itself, the sound a puck makes when it lands on a player’s stick (isn’t that sound so damn perfect?) Moreover, hockey has been the glue that has kept my father and I together. In fact, he and I almost never got along unless hockey was involved, and with time, hockey has been able to impart emotions that under other circumstances would’ve resulted in awkward moments or emotions repressed: be it a hug after an amazing goal by Turgeon (we call it THE GOAL, against the Caps…which later resulted in Turgeon getting wrecked by Dale Hunter) the endless high-fives, the tears shed after Bossy retired, my sports hero par excellence. Hockey (and I’m sure many out there share in my experiences) is a rite of passage.
All the aformentioned notwithstanding, the sport boils down to men who say they love the game, love the players, but do they love the fans? Do they love us?
I read earlier this morning that Ovechkin called the owners clowns. I find this remark rather ironic and equally amusing. I asked myself earlier today: I wonder which clown/what type of clown the owners would be, really? Sad clown? Annoyed clown? Befuddled clown? Pennywise, the dancing clown?! (Stephen King, people. It? Anyone?) I go with Penny. One thing’s for sure, Alex my boy, you’re part of a three-ring circus. Don’t kid yourself.
My daughters want to go skating again, even after all the crying and complaining and the scrapped hands and knees. Took them a good half hour, but we stuck around the rink to see some kids their age having fun and struggling all the same. I whispered in their ears: see, it takes time and practice and patience, and love. It’s about the love. Sure thing, my princesses. Next week we’ll go.
I leave you with this video, lest we forget why we write what we write: