I’m your typical girly-girl — you know, nail polish and sparkles and ponies and absolutely no spiders. So people are often surprised when they find out that I’m an avid hockey fan.
Known for vicious fights and rugged guys with toothless grins, hockey isn’t exactly the kind of sport you’d expect somebody like me to enjoy. But I love it.
But the truth is, I haven’t always loved hockey.
Growing up in south suburban Chicago, where there’s an outdoor ice rink on nearly every corner during the winter months, I learned to skate pretty much as soon as I could walk.
Our neighborhood park had a tennis court that the park district personnel would flood and freeze every winter, and my siblings and I would spend hours gliding around on the ice, pretending we were graceful figure skaters. That’s where it all started for me.
There was something about the chill air filling my lungs and the swishing sound of cold steel on ice that invigorated me, and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
In junior high, I saved up all my money to pay for figure skating lessons, and my time at the rink only fueled my love of the elegant sport. For me, it was art.
I never paid much attention to the hockey games that took place on the arena’s other rink — hockey was for boys.
But my dad, who had played hockey when he was younger, would always go over to the next rink to watch the hockey players while he waited for me to finish my lessons. I’d have to go search him out in the stands, and he’d say, “OK, we can leave at the end of this period.”
So I’d heave a sigh and resignedly sit down to watch with him.
In spite of myself, the sport began to grow on me, and before I knew it, I had become an avid fan of the game where crazy guys with knives strapped to their feet ran around on sheets of ice with sticks in their hands, chasing after a little black rock-hard rubber biscuit.
But it wasn’t until I began following my hometown’s original-six NHL team, the Chicago Blackhawks, that I discovered the real depth of the game.
In the 2009-10 season, I watched the fresh talent of the dynamic duo Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews re-energize a Stanley Cup-starved Blackhawks and bring Lord Stanley back to Chicago.
And it wasn’t just the win that thrilled me. It was the lightning-fast puck handling, the seamless teamwork and the edge-of-your-seat shootouts that kept me watching.
As I watched, I began to realize something. There wasn’t as big of a difference between my figure skating and their hockey as I had once thought. Mine wasn’t beauty and theirs brawn. Both sports had their own particular artistry.
I now have two favorite sports: figure skating and hockey. And it’s not such a shock after all that even a girly-girl like me can appreciate the finesse involved in the beautiful (yes, beautiful!) sport of ice hockey.