You know the old saying what a difference a year makes?
Well, for this sports fan, this year has been one of learning a new sport that I had hated up until now—hockey.
If someone would have asked me six months ago what a minor in hockey was, I probably would have said something along the lines of "it is someone under the age of 18 that plays hockey." Oh, how naive I was back then.
Growing up I never had a very large interest in hockey. My family never really watched it and girls rarely played it so ultimately it wasn't on my top three list of sports to watch. I am still kicking myself for that mistake.
The only two teams I knew very well were the hometown boys, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, because of the three movies. Ah, the good ol' days...but I digress.
A little less than six months ago, a good friend of mine decided that hockey needed to be introduced into my life—and it wasn't just any ordinary team. Oh no, he brought me into the realm of the Pittsburgh Penguins. A team with Sid the Kid, Geno, and the Flower for a goaltender.
Needless to say I was hooked, because—well, have you seen Sidney Crosby? It took some time to understand the rules completely, such as the difference between offsides in football and hockey (took me over a month to finally get it right), power play length, and different penalties.
For me, hockey almost seems like a ballet in how the players go from one side of the rink to the other. Of course in this ballet, the men are wearing heavy pads and beating each other to a pulp—but you get the idea.
Whether chasing down the puck to score the winning goal or stopping the other team from getting a breakaway, they glide seamlessly back and forth, making it look so easy and beautiful.
Now before everyone starts yelling at me for being a bandwagon fan, I must say first that I do watch the Blackhawks, and have paid some very minor attention to them over the years, so I don't want to hear all that bandwagon crap. Second, I was brought into the Penguins fan base by association and loyalty of a friend—so there.
By the All-Star game I knew two things for certain: I can't stand Alexander Ovechkin and a hockey puck is really hard to see when the cameramen suck. The Pens at this point weren't doing very well so of course I thought I was the reason, the jinx....I love being wrong.
The Pens, like their cardiac kids nickname implies, gained new life under a new head coach and had me believing that there is a reason that the hockey season lasts so long; so the good can get better and the bad fall by the wayside.
I said earlier that I liked the Penguins because of the very handsome Sidney Crosby but oh how my hockey tastes have changed. I see players like Malkin, Fluery, Kane, Toews, (dare I say it) Ovechkin, Datsyuk, and Eric Staal that are so skilled, yet so humble it leaves me in awe that these guys play a professional sport. Well, maybe not Ovechkin—but the guy can play.
One of the major things I've noticed in my six months as a hockey fan is how soft-spoken these players are. There aren't any Kobes, LeBrons or T.O.s in sight to run their mouths but only players that are willing to prove themselves on the ice instead of in the post game press-conferences.
As I am writing this the Pens are up 1-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavaliers are playing the Magic in the same conference finals for the NBA. I couldn't care less and i love it!
I am hoping for a Penguins-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Final because that means either way I would be happy for the winner—but the Blackhawks need to get their A-game back.
Only a few more weeks until Lord Stanley's Cup will be awarded and for the first time in my life, I can say I am excited to see who wins!!