breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game
begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms
in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as
soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face
the fall alone.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti
It is a cool,
gray, rainy morning, just weeks after another college hockey season
has come to an abrupt halt, and the traffic is unrelenting on
the drive into the city. For those hockey fans prone to view the
glass as half-empty, it is a perfect morning to look on the dark
side of life, to focus on the damp cold, and to curse the six
long months ahead, until the next puck is dropped.
At first glance,
all that can be seen through the rain-flecked windshield is the
flash of soggy red tail lights, reminiscent of the sweaty uniforms
in a post-game handshake between Wisconsin and Cornell. But upon
further inspection, the commuter notes buds appearing on the branches
of trees, and the wet grass in the median flashing the brilliant
green of a Dartmouth road sweater (or maybe it's Alaska Anchorage).
is over. The final horn inside a riverside rink in Ohio provided
a soundtrack to jubilant Pioneers shedding gloves and helmets,
and signifying that another harsh winter has been survived.
hockey is a long way off, there are joyous days to come. The commuter
dreams of summer afternoons at a ballpark, listening to the crack
of wood bats and noting that some athletes do just fine without
one-piece composites. He envisions summer evenings, watching from
a lakeside Adirondack chair, as the setting sun makes the surface
of the water flash more shades of blue than you’d ever see
at a Maine pep rally.
In the sweltering
afternoons of August he’ll get into the oven-like car after
work, roll down all the windows, and reflect on the 150-degree
temperature difference encountered when one hops in the car after
a January game in St. Cloud. Then he’ll pop “Thunderstruck”
into the CD player, crank the volume, and pretend that two teams
have just hit the ice for warm-ups.
it will grow cooler, and the first leaves will start to turn.
The foliage transition from yellow to dark gold, and from bright
red to a muted maroon will reflect the historical team colors
of the defending national champs. As the weatherman first talks
of snow, there will be whispered reports of captains’ practice
to take in, and optimistic talk of which freshmen will make an
impact right away.
systems will be drained and weather-stripping will be installed
in preparation for months of miserable cold, ice and snow. And
just as depression might otherwise set in, a band will play a
rouser somewhere nearby. A white sheet of ice, painted with stripes
of red and blue, will be smoothed over by a machine. Teams will
file onto benches, and a man in zebra stripes will stand at a
red dot in the middle of the building.
With a gunmetal
gray sky threatening flurries outside, a hard rubber disk will
be dropped between two men with sticks, and the cycle will begin
When you need
it most, after the glory of summer is gone and the elements of
nature begin to rage, hockey will return to warm your heart.