Back in October I thought that sauce was something I dipped my McNuggets in. I thought a biscuit was something delicious at Popeyes that I smother in honey. I thought that Zdeno Chara was a word scramble. I thought pluses and minuses were for math. I even thought if you didn't win a sports game, it was always a bad thing.
But after 82 regular season games and 14 nights of playoff hockey, I know better. (Although I still don't believe Zdeno is a name). So what happened? Hockey happened!
Start A Hockey Blog? Why Not?
During the 2011 basketball season I was angry with the NBA. The league was in the midst of a lockout and the entire season was possibly going to be cancelled. I needed something to get me through the boring winter. As a joke I told people I would watch hockey if the NBA didn't have a season.
That joke slowly turned into a reality. I decided that I would try to learn the game of hockey and watch the Caps every single game. In fact, I figured what better way to stay interested in the sport than to write about it. So just 1 day before the Capitals season started, I created Caps Basketball, a Washington Capitals hockey blog. The great hockey experiment had begun!
On October 10th, 2011, I sat down and did something I had never done before. In fact it was something I never thought I would ever do in my lifetime. I went into my basement, grabbed a beer out of the fridge, sat down on the couch, and watched a full NHL hockey game.
When the game was over, a Washington Capitals victory in a shootout over the Tampa Bay Lightning, I was sick to my stomach. All that puck movement back and forth combined with trying to focus my eyes on that tiny black speck had made me nauseous.
In addition to the discomfort my brain was also struggling. I had no idea what I had just saw. There were strange penalties, random face-offs, and the refs blew the whistle for unknown reasons. I couldn't tell which player was which, and I didn't understand anything they did besides shooting on the net.
This was going to be a long season...
The reason I actually made it through the season and watched every game was because of the readers of the blog, all the amazing Caps fans, and hockey fans in general. Because of the premise of the blog, it ended up being featured on Caps blogs, national NHL blogs, and even Grantland. With all that exposure I received a lot of positive comments from hockey fans who encouraged me to keep watching and writing. (Special thanks to RMNB for showcasing me first)
What had started out as somewhat of a joke had turned into a great learning tool as well. Anytime I didn't know what was happening I would tweet my questions and readers would respond. Then after the game I would post additional questions on the blog and readers would email me, tweet me, and comment to give me the answers.
My eyes and stomach adjusting to the game along with all the great help and encouragement from readers had turned a sport that I despised into a sport where I couldn't miss a single game.
The Good Old Hockey Game
Early on in the season, I was fortunate enough to be able to go in person and witness hockey live with 18,000 screaming maniacs wearing red shirts. There was something unique about hockey fans. They seemed to understand the nuances of the game. I had to ask someone next to me, "Why is everyone clapping". The response, "Because it was a good shift".
As a Washington Wizards season ticket holder, this experience was a tad bit different from the NBA experience. Instead of playing DMX while the ball is in play, the fans made the noise during gameplay. Instead of fans having casual conversations, fans were screaming "Let's Go Caps!" in unison. Instead of a couple thousand people scattered among empty seats, every seat was full. (although the seats would be full if the Wizards had the Caps record).
An Amazing Year
So that brings us back to today. The Capitals season is over, and my first season as a hockey fan has come to an end. I learned a lot, had a lot of help, and had a lot of great readers. As the season went on, the guy who was interesting because he didn't know the sport slowly transformed into the guy who started to "get" hockey. Now I smile when friends ask me about things that are going on in a hockey game and I am able to answer them or provide analysis.
I've come along way...the season may be over but this journey will continue forever. For I am now a hockey fan...