Tonawanda News

May 30, 2014

ADAMCZYK: Pretending it's still winter

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Personally, I watch a lot of hockey on television, and this time of the year, late spring when the weather is least appropriate, is the ideal time to see this remarkable sport at its best, most furious, most beautiful. And you have never seen such whining as when one player or another feels bereft of sympathy over a referee’s decision not to call a penalty!

Assuming every experience is a learning experience, some of what I have learned, watching hockey, includes:

The French for penalty is “punition.” It’s on the scoreboard in Montreal. For beef jerky, it’s “jerky au boeuf.” It’s on the arena advertising.

Canadians drink beer or coffee whether they gather. The girls are apparently easier at the places that involve beer, and they seem to go for bears.

Announcers think “Saskatchewan” is easy to pronounce. It’s those Middle European names with a surfeit of consonants and a lack of vowels that trip them up.

Hockey, which is to say the game, begins roughly twelve minutes after the hockey, the television program, starts, unless the game is in Montreal, for which you should add about fifteen minutes for pre-game ritual. It has been said there are only three organizations on earth that truly understand ceremony: the royal House of Windsor, the Catholic Church and the Montreal Canadiens. This team’s formalities make opponents feel as though they’re playing against everyone who ever drew a paycheck with the Canadiens’ logo on it.

Hockey fans have team loyalties and opinions galore, which is how it should be, but they apparently have a few things in common, notably a need for trucks, banking services, lawn care supplies and the aforementioned beer and coffee.

The best way to watch hockey on television is via the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which was established as a radio network in 1936 to unite that enormous country and teach it hockey. The announcers are as informed and erudite as any in sports, representatives of Buffalo law firms do not intrude on the action and the CBC offers the comment of Don Cherry, who at age 80 is a model for anyone in politics: wear something to distinguish yourself from the herd, spout opinions galore and don’t forget to remind everyone when you’re right.

It is easy to injure oneself while playing this game. One gentleman playing for the New York Rangers this playoff season, Mr. Derek Stepan, is doing it with a broken jaw, sustained in a prior game. American mothers concerned about possible concussions to their football-playing sons should consult Canadian mothers to see how their boys survive childhood.

And if I had it to do over again I’d become a dentist in Canada.

One of the shining lights of the current hockey population is Mr. Patrick Kane, who plays for Chicago and grew up in South Buffalo. See, we can indeed grow ‘em here. No need to live in Alberta, Kladno or Petrozavodsk to succeed in this sport.

It is appropriate, when attending a game, to dress as though you’re prepared to play. A helmet, or padding on the joints, is not necessary, but wearing the home team’s jersey, called a sweater regardless of its fabric, is the way to go, and somehow girls look better than guys in these things. They are expensive, incidentally, and typically come, for extra expenditure, with a favorite player’s name and number on the back, and that has its drawbacks. Anyone want to buy a Matt Barnaby Sabres sweater?

Games begin after the national anthem, either Canada’s or the United States’ or sometimes both, are performed, by singers who treat the appearance as a regular gig. The singer in Boston adds celebratory martial arts chops to the end of his; Montreal’s is a mezzo-soprano, Ginette Reno, who brings a passionate, Piaf-like quality to the Canadian anthem, sung in French. Someone is singing something in Chicago, but the audience there cheers through the entire anthem, a leftover of patriotic frenzy from the Gulf War (it was 1991 and an all-star game, and the crowd chose to roar as the anthem was performed, not merely after it).

Watching it all on television has the added benefit of cheaper beer, less confining clothing, a couch instead of a cramped seat and my choice of adjacent fans, compared to attendance at a game (those who orchestrate the National Football League are these days adding reasons to buy tickets; they have made the television experience more pleasurable, actually turned their sport into a made-for-TV event, and are beginning to pay for it in the form of empty stadium seats).

A friend in Mexico takes vacation time off from work to watch his beloved World Cup. I don’t, but my evenings these days seem to be occupied with television, and hockey. I know how he feels.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears weekly in the Record-Advertiser. Contact him at