OPINION COLUMNS

Hockey’s got nothing on baseball

By Joy Carrico | Published Wednesday, January 4, 2017
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The Fella loves hockey. He even plays hockey. As his loyal and loving girlfriend, I have made an effort to understand and enjoy this game. In fact, I have often been one of two or three people freezing in the metal bleachers as he plays in league hockey. In my pre-Fella days, I didn’t even know it was possible to play hockey recreationally like one would play softball.

Hockey has not grabbed my imagination like baseball does. I have been to several Stars games this season, and hockey just doesn’t offer what baseball offers.

Joy Carrico

Joy Carrico

Baseball is like a jazz concert. It’s often mellow, and I sometimes feel like a whole lot of nothing is going on. Then all of a sudden, everything happens and the whole world is charged with excitement.

Hockey is much different. It’s more like a heavy metal concert. I think of it as part soccer, part football and part car accident. It is never mellow. In fact, the quietest part of the game is when they are actually playing. Any break in play is filled with as much loudness and stimulation as possible.

In baseball, I can root for my favorite players (Go Choo!). Players are usually in the game for the whole nine innings, and if the right fielder does something spectacular, I know who did it.

Not so in hockey. I cannot get attached to these players because they are on the ice for a maximum of three minutes at a time – and three minutes is a long estimate.

Just when I start to learn the players in their positions, I’ll get excited thinking, “Oh! Klingberg just made a nice pass,” only to discover that the dude I thought was Klingberg was someone else entirely. I can’t keep up with the line changes and knowing who is actually on the ice. I generally just yell “Go Canadian!” That way, I have a 50/50 chance of being right.

Baseball has a large percentage of players who are not from the U.S., and in this way, hockey is similar. Do you know how many Americans are on the Dallas Stars? I was amazed to discover that we can boast one home-grown player. Home grown as in Pennsylvania – not Texas.

When Rougned Odor punched Joey Bautista last season, it was an enormous deal. It made the news all over the country. He was booed for at least a week by opposing fans and was suspended for multiple games – I think the final number was seven. One punch and the world exploded.

In two games of hockey, I witnessed no fewer than six fistfights. And these weren’t men crowding each others space in a menacing manner, exchanging words in some Nordic language. These were gloves-off, helmets-off punching brawls.

Was it a big deal? Nope. They had to sit in a box for a few minutes. If there was any kind of reprimand by the NHL, I didn’t hear about it. And I saw it nowhere in the news.

That would be funny actually, if the news treated every hockey brawl like the Odor/Bautista bout. We’d hear about nothing else.

The fans are really different, too. Most baseball fans, in my experience, are civilized. They might boo and hurl the occasional insult at a player, but on the whole they are enjoying the game in a way that doesn’t pull attention away from the game.

This is not my experience with hockey-goers. People bang on the glass (if they can reach it) and act like Romans at a gladiator match whenever there’s a brawl. It’s not an environment that promotes peace and love of fellow man. I don’t see myself getting into the violence that comes with hockey. I would have made a poor Roman.

Despite all the unpleasantness that goes with them, I do enjoy watching hockey games. It turns out if you sit through dozens of amateur games with no idea what’s going on, you eventually get a sense of what’s going on.

I can follow the game pretty well now and have even trained my eye to follow the puck most of the time. At first, I only knew someone had scored at the Fella’s game because the players on the bench would start banging their sticks. I usually see the goal these days. I still like the banging sticks, though, because they validate what I thought just happened.

The Stars are far easier to watch than league play because there are tools in place to clue me in – like announcers and giant screens.

I want the Stars to win, but I hate it when they score because the entire world screams “Goal!” over and over with deafening force until play resumes. I need to remember my earplugs next time I go to a Stars game.

I miss baseball. I’ve made it about halfway through the off-season without too much whining, but I’m starting to find myself counting the days until baseball is again a regular part of my life. “Go Klingberg!” just doesn’t have the same satisfying ring that “Go Choo!” does.

Joy Carrico is a Messenger graphic artist. You can often find her freezing at an amateur hockey game wondering what just happened and praying there isn’t a tie.

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