Hockey might be a profoundly Canadian activity, but so is the act of despising the asinine aspects of hockey behaviour.
Twenty years after leaving high school, here’s what I remember about the hockey players who went there: They actually circle jerked. One of the guys was legendary for the velocity with which he could achieve orgasm. Like, he told people. He bragged about it. That always struck me as weird. But then, the hockey players who went to my high school were weird. They had weird relationships with women, and weird in-jokes that referenced things I thought were just weird to be into. Like the professional wrestler Ric Flair.
I’ve been thinking about those hockey players a lot lately because of a conversation I recently had with my dad. “Are you going to register Myron for hockey this year?” he asked.
My son is an athletic kid. He’s fast and strong and tough. He falls out of trees, dusts himself off, and climbs back up them. He rides his bike for miles alongside me as I run along the waterfront. And I do see the logic of starting him up in hockey.
If you live in Toronto, and you want to set your athletic boy on a path that could, conceivably, lead to professional sports, then hockey seems like the smartest route to take. Sure, soccer may be more accessible, but the spirit of soccer doesn’t pervade the air here the way it does in South America or Europe. No other place in the world has Toronto’s resources for creating world-class hockey players. After all, we’re the biggest city in the country that invented the sport.
And if Myron ever intends to play, I should start him now. Myron is six. He had fun with last winter’s skating lessons. He’s ready to get going. If we wait till he’s seven, he’ll be behind. Really, it’s this year, or never.
But after my dad’s question, I shrugged.
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“Is it a money thing?” he asked.
“Naw,” I said.
So what kind of a thing was it? I flushed. To my dad, I mumbled something about wanting to spend much of this winter at ski hills, and then one of the kids distracted him. He didn’t have a chance to argue with me, to say what I know he felt: You should put your boy in hockey. It’s basically un-Canadian not to do it.
But look, this winter, if I’m going to be sitting on anything cold for long periods of time, I’d rather it be a ski lift. My boy’s already a good enough skier to be comfortable on intermediate runs. I’ve got some trips planned—to Blue Mountain, maybe to Tremblant or Burlington, Vermont. This winter I figured we’d tackle black diamonds. He’s also bugging me to teach him how to snowboard. Dude, I’ve been dreaming of snowboarding with my son since I was 20 years old.
Even if we didn’t prefer snowsports, I would never push my son to pursue hockey. I spent some years playing the game, and I do enjoy the occasional round of shinny. But spending long hours drinking bad coffee on cold fibreglass benches in dark arenas? Not exactly a pastime that, as a time-pressed parent, I’m excited to pursue. And I just can’t shake the sport’s lingering association with the circle-jerking dicks at my high school.
In fact, that’s the root of my problem with the sport. It’s not that I don’t want my son to play hockey. It’s that I don’t want him to become a hockey player, to become part of that peculiarly jock subset of humanity. Is it the long hours spent in locker rooms? The culture of the sport? The inherent violence that breeds among its players an allegiance to the team that supercedes all else? Whatever the cause, hockey has an asshole problem.
So this winter, I’m going to concentrate on avoiding feeling un-Canadian because I haven’t put my boy in hockey. Actually, I’d argue that there’s something patriotic about it. Yeah, you know what? Hockey might be a profoundly Canadian activity. But so is the act of despising the asinine aspects of hockey behaviour.