As a kid, I delivered the Windsor Star to Red Wings goalie Glenn Hall.
As a cub reporter, I once photographed Toronto tough guy Eddie Shack. Playing baseball.
In 1972, I scored a coup on As It Happens by walking beside Bobby Hull’s convertible and interviewing him en route to picking up his $1-million cheque from the Winnipeg Jets.
These credentials should mark me as a red-blooded hockey fan, right? Wrong.
At the risk of losing my passport, and the friendship of obsessives such as George Maratos, I confess: my all-Canadian heart has never skipped a beat over the great Canadian pastime.
I don’t love hockey. I don’t hate hockey. I am completely, utterly uninterested in hockey.
On a scale of one to 100, my interest in the subject ranks about three. Right down there with particle physics.
To put that in perspective, my interest in physics of any flavour peaked around the time Old Man Ferguson tried to teach us about static electricity by rubbing a cat with a styrene rod (or was it vice versa?).
So I empathized with a friend’s Facebook post during the frenetic interlude between Games 6 and 7 of the recent gladiatorial slugfest known as the Stanley Cup finals.
This friend, a recent immigrant from Australia, had the temerity to admit for all to see that she doesn’t “get” hockey.
With mere months before the madness resumes, I hereby bequeath to Katherine, and other non-buffs, my favourite strategies to avoid being ostracized by those who value hockey over oxygen.
These strategies have been adapted from my experience in Regina, where ignorance of every grunt and twitch involving the Roughriders (no, Katherine, that’s not hockey) is considered an act of treason.
First: ignore the regular season. You can usually skate by with something non-committal, such as, “I don’t have cable.”
Second: ignore the quarter finals. Too many variables; even hardcore fans are just speculating.
When the office pool comes by, be a sport. Pay the two bucks, close your eyes and pick a square.
Third: do some basic prep for the semifinals. Learn the names of the four teams; pick one at random as “your” team; smile good-naturedly as everyone else declares you an idiot.
Fourth: the finals loom. Time to dig deep. Be prepared to invest a good 10 minutes in intensive research.
Each game has three periods. Each team has a goalie and a bunch of other players. It takes four wins to win.
Lock in the names of the two teams. Don’t reveal your abysmal ignorance by suggesting, “This could be the Oilers’ year.” It couldn’t.
Pay attention to when the games are being played. If you even know where, you can volunteer such gems as, “Don’t underestimate the home-ice advantage.”
For your expertise to truly shine, memorize the names of three players on each team: a forward, a defenceman and – this one is not negotiable – the starting goalie.
Immediately after each game, spend a minute online to see which names pop up the most.
Voilà. You’re ready for all comers.
Read your audience. Don’t initiate, but be prepared with the odd phrase such as, “Man, Burrows was hot last night,” or “Luongo was sleep-walking,” or “Boston sure works the grudge factor.”
Don’t overplay it. Stay cryptic. True fans don’t give a rip what you think; they want to tell you what they think.
There, you’ve survived another season.
Just don’t blow it all – as I am wont to do – by blurting out, “How about that Gump Worsley, eh? Hell of a season.”