Last year I was privy to a wild and exotic phenomenon, the likes of which I'd only witnessed via televised means: hockey.
It was a Thursday night, and the crowds wouldn't flock to the neighborhood dive until much later. But this night was different. A few local colleges were hosting commencement ceremonies that weekend, so college students and their families busily packed the T, took all the parking spots and hogged the best tables.
Oh yeah--a hockey game was on, too. The Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple
Leafs Leaves battled it out on the bar's flat screens while the customers, bartenders, wait staff and line cooks shouted with anger, joy, or some maniacal combination of the two.
And I had no idea in hell what was going on.
Sure, I'd heard of hockey back in Texas. The Houston Aeros played from 1994 to 2001 as an expansion team of the International Hockey League (IHL), and they were the only IHL team to join the American Hockey League (AHL) when the former organization folded in 2001. I even attended a few games during the late 90s and early 2000s. I've always had a basic idea of the sport's mechanics. (Plus, like most of my generation, I'd seen The Mighty Ducks films countless times.)
But that "experience" wasn't worth a damn at this bar. The Bruins were playing. The bar (and the city, for that matter) was alive with variations of golden yellow and black jerseys boasting complex Scandinavian names I couldn't pronounce. (Aside: I saw a person wearing a shirt with Bruins' colors and the phrase "Keep Calm and Bergeron" plastered on it and pronounced this out loud in mixed company as "burger-on." Friends, old women and infants in the immediate vicinity quickly corrected me. Very quickly.) Alcohol was flowing freely from the taps. And the yelling. Everybody in the bar was yelling. Even when they were happy.
Luckily, some folks at a neighboring table took pity and tried to educate me in the ways of hockey. Terms like "power play" and "icing"--technicalities of the game that once alluded me--alluded me still, but with lesser detriment. The complexities of goals, positions, defensive and offensive tactics and refereeing (goddamn zebras) were explained in terms reminiscent of my days in preschool. This was helpful, but in a screaming sports bar I found that the best practice was to yell in accordance with the general populace.
When the Bruins took on the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals, I tried my best to retain everything the bar patrons had taught me. I returned as often as I could to watch the games, eat terribly unhealthy food and drink beer by the gallon. I even contemplated buying a Bruins jersey.
But all seemed for naught when the Blackhawks beat the Bruins on a sultry June night. I no longer had anyone to yell with--the best the bar could muster was a disgruntled fan's vulgar outburst, delivered soon after the crowd's shared silence.
So here we are again, Boston. I've tried my best to keep up with the current season and post-season, and I'm more confident in my ability to shout in tandem with the bar crowd.
Go Bruins! You're really good at ice sportsing!