It’s finally hockey season. Here in Mississippi even Mother Nature knew it was time to hit the ice and it cooled down overnight. The NHL started playing 5 days ago, and it’s been great having games on TV every night. At least in my house it’s given us another reason to fight for the remote. And since we’re here in Hernando, and we’re not independently wealthy, we won’t be attending any NHL games anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, we’d like to. I’m a Stars fan, and he’s an Avalanche fan (don’t hold it against him), but we’d still like to drive to Nashville to see a REAL hockey game. Or at least that’s what our friend Mike calls it. He’s in Nashville. He’s also a huge Preds fan, and a season ticket holder. And he loves to call and rub it in. Now, how he came by these season tickets is something of a mystery to me. He’s a poor computer geek like me, so either he’s been pimping out his dog, selling plasma, or he mugged some real season ticket holder. My money’s on the dog.
But I digress. This is about Mike and his definition of REAL hockey. See, according to Mike, despite the lockout last year, he still has it oodles better than we do. Because we don’t have a REAL hockey team. Oh, we have fooled ourselves into believing we do, what with our cute little CHL team, but the RiverKings aren’t REAL hockey. In “The world according to Mike”, we may as well be watching women’s lacrosse.
Here’s what I can’t get Mike to understand. I’m thrilled to be a RiverKings fan. To me, and plenty of others around here, they’re more than a hockey team. These men mean a lot to us. They pop up at community events, they help out whenever they’re needed, and well, they’re just nice guys. Do I think the RiverKings are the only CHL team this fabulous, or is it indicative of the league? I don’t know. I hope that somewhere in Austin there’s an Ice Bat helping to build a playground. And maybe in Lubbock there’s a guy taking time out to have dinner with a fan’s family, just to make some kid’s day. And if they’re lucky in Bossier there’s a player feeding fans, raising money for charity while helping to get a friend’s restaurant noticed.
Now some might argue that NHL players are just as fabulous. I’m not saying they’re not charitable. But they’re not regular guys. That’s what I like about the RiverKings. They’re regular guys who happen to be talented enough to get paid to play a game. They know it. And I’ve heard at least one of their girlfriend’s remind them about how lucky they are. But I think overall, they know it. And they don’t walk around with their heads in the clouds looking down on us mere mortals. They appreciate the fans. And this is where they differ from the so-called REAL hockey players. As gracious as it is to paint “Thank You, Fans” in the ice at all the NHL games, is it sincere? I for one am a little skeptical. It would sound a little more honest to me if there had been some games played on that ice last year. But to see so many players “keep up their game” for overseas fans, it’s hard to remain so loyal. But as I’m sure everyone’s noticed, hockey fans are as loyal as they come. I’m sure it didn’t slip by the NHLPA that 11 of the 15 games played on opening night were sold out. So we worship these guys. It’s apparent to everyone. And it’s hard to be humble in that kind of environment.
So I’ll let Mike keep thinking that he has it better than us. When he calls to ask us what we do to get our hockey fix, I’ll just smile. Let him tease. I know that I can’t change his mind. He doesn’t get it. He’s never been to a player dinner. He’s never seen a Kenny Goetz kind of player, who works another job in the summer but can still make time to come to Kid’s Day to make my daughter’s face light up. He’s never seen Don Parsons’s coach kids at street hockey out of the goodness of his heart. Mike has never had the pleasure of seeing Derek Landmesser serve sandwiches to my family. Mike can have his “REAL” hockey, because we’ve got something better.