Canadian Lifestyles: Hockey

By Kerstin Auer

You Know You’re in Canada When…

… the parking lot of the local Hockey Arena is full at 6 am.

And I am talking Saturday and Sunday mornings! It is true; I live right across from the arena and when I sleepily rub my eyes and hang on to my first caffeinated beverage of the day, I see eager young children and enthusiastic parents jumping out of their pick-up trucks (regular cars are too small for the gigantic hockey bags) and joyfully heading towards the arena.

From the end of September to the end of May, hockey defines the Canadian landscape. This country’s affinity for hockey goes way beyond a fling – it is love!

One of the greatest Canadian athletes of all time is Wayne Gretzky, who apparently was something like a hockey wizard. Many great hockey players have come after him, but nobody has been quite like him. So a successor to the hockey throne must be found and every hockey mom in Canada is convinced her offspring could be the one… and off to the 6 a.m. practice they go! Even if a professional hockey career does not work out for every little player, it is a way to learn some important life lessons. Teamwork, fair play and discipline – those attributes have never hurt anybody. And let’s not forget the ability to stand the cold; what better way to get ready for winter than being conditioned to the cold in an ice arena in October, while it’s still 25°C outside?

Eager to fit in as a new immigrant, I tried to sit through a hockey game on TV just a few months after we moved here. Alas, it was just too early. I tried to keep my eyes on the puck and got dizzy after a few minutes. That little black thing was just too fast for me. Little did I know back then about Wayne Gretzky’s secret: always skate (or in my case, look) where you think the puck will go to. I still have not mastered that technique, but I am getting there!

After four years in Canada my hockey knowledge is still rather pathetic, but I am more than happy to share what I have learned about hockey. Just don’t tell anyone I am approaching this humorously, because Rule No.1 is that you don’t make fun of hockey!

• It is not a good idea to go to the local ice arena just for some leisurely skating and ask for rental skates. I did this once and after a moment of disbelief the cashier informed me that there is no such thing as a skate rental – she has never heard of someone not owning skates.

• If it’s the Stanley Cup Finals and you find yourself standing in front of a store that is closed, even though it should be open – don’t panic. This is normal during that time of the year, since some businesses close early to give their employees the chance to watch the game.

• Driving 300 km or more to see a hockey game or up to 700 km to attend a hockey tournament for your kid’s team is perfectly normal. After all, Canada is a huge country!

• NHL stands for National Hockey League. Don’t make the same mistake I did and ask what an NHL is…

• If your kids come home from school with what you think is a huge piece of black liquorice, don’t take a bite out of it. It is more likely to be an eraser in the shape of a hockey puck.

So this is my compiled knowledge of hockey – but now seriously, I’ve actually started watching quite a few of the Vancouver Canucks hockey games lately. And no, it has absolutely nothing to do with the picture of Ryan Kessler posing nude, which I saw online just before I started watching my new favourite sport.