Oct 21, 2002
Hockey is a very sexy sport. You didn't realize that, did you? No, you thought it was just a good time with your buds, a chance to get out and drink some beer, and yell for your team. But there's a whole group out there watching with you, hockey-boy, and if you play, then they're evaluating you in ways you might never have imagined.
To the uninitiated female, most sports seem to involve whacking, kicking, carrying or throwing something fairly small and roundish so it can't be captured by the opposing team. It needs to land in a specified area so various numbers can be earned. That's basically it, right? The Aztecs used people's heads. Hockey players use a little puck. To many women, this general idea is a little pointless. What really is the big deal? Why do all these people smack each other and bleed profusely just to win a game? Why? What does it mean to a man when his team wins? And why does it mean anything? Now, don't get me wrong. Hockey is probably the most beautiful sport ever. Human beings moving swiftly and smoothly in a big, cool place. Although some guys skate like a frog on flypaper, seemingly digging big chunks out of the ice as they gear up for the chase, many are long-limbed and graceful, barely seeming to touch the crisp, cold surface as they whoosh by the glass. We girls like that. We like to look at pretty stuff. That's why we're always going off to decorator stores and re-arranging furniture, hanging little fussy things with flowers coming out of them. Yes, we like figure skating, and if a guy skates in a smooth and sleek fashion, we'll look at him and say to each other "Well, he's a good skater. He's so fast on the ice". And we think we sound like we know what we're talking about.
For the past few weeks, I've been chatting with women I've met at the Dallas Stars' hockey practices. I want to know why they're there, why they're watching hockey. The reasons at first are various. Their kid is playing on the other ice. They play. (More on that in a little bit). They're there with their boyfriends. They're going to the game that night. They like the uniforms. (Or "costumes" as one girl referred to them, and she also thinks their "hats" hide their faces too much). They want an autograph. And they all want to see Mike Modano up close...Hmm. we may have just hit on something. I watched a group of four young ladies who had their eyes glues on the above-mentioned Modano, and were craning their pretty little necks just to see him wipe his nose on his sleeve, and make a joke with Sergei Zubov. These seemingly ordinary actions caused them to giggle, and made their eyes glisten with the same druggy glaze as a pubescent has at an N'Sync concert. They were all dressed up for man-huntin', too. Tight jeans, bellies showing, heels real high, and young firm cleavages plunging. I pity NHL wives. But those were very young girls. I approached a couple of gals who appeared to have been married for a time, with a less fresh and glazy view of things.
"Why are you girls here today?" I asked in a reporterly fashion.
"Hockey players are hot." Said one, smiling unabashedly.
"Oh. Okay. Do you like the game?"
"Yeah, it's fast. Pretty easy to understand."
"I like the fights." The other one said, her eyes not leaving Bill Guerin as she spoke.
"Yeah, Downey's good at that. He trains with a boxer in the off-season." said the unabashed one.
"You both like the fights?"
"Well, it's kind a hot-man thing, you know. It's not good when it's your husband fighting, as if mine would, but when it's on the ice, it's o.k. They're paid for it, and besides, it's pretty sexy. Manly."
What these two women were saying gave me pause for thought. They were stating unashamedly what I was too embarrassed to verbalize. I looked around at all the other ladies watching. From the 12 year old and her Mom, to the 20 year old bimbettes, to the 60-plus with her Stars sweatshirt and her grandkids, all had the same look on their faces. Just as transfixed, but more alert than a man at a car parts store, half admiration, half bewilderment registered on their faces. "Well, that was a puny save." I turned to my left, and saw a young woman commenting to her boyfriend on the ice-action. Yeah, girl, pretend for him that you know what's going on. Impress him with your hockey-smarts. I know you have a secret crush on Marty Turco. I can tell by the look on your face. And I stand guilty, too.
Could it be that the love of hockey in men and women may comes down to a simple biological compulsion? Could it be that most men want to be a sports star, and most women want to be with one? Is the enjoyment of hockey based upon our own man-fantasies of being the cream of the crop, or in a woman's case, breeding with the cream of the crop? It's a fair assumption, yes. Are hockey players among the best of the breeding stock? Most definitely, according to the opinion of the four belly-baring Modano-maidens, the grandma, the girlfriend and my new fight-loving friends.
Fantasy hockeyland. A place where the men are all men and they are men who never complain about department store bills. Hockey players grunt and yell, and sweat and spit. They don't always shave. They swear. They carry big sticks. They shove each other around. All the things a woman never, ever wants to see in a husband, but finds exciting anyway. They have muscles, and low, manly voices, sometimes with exotic accents (especially those Canadians). They move quickly and get the job done. They're popular. They smile in pictures with children and babies. They have big salaries. All the things a woman would like to see in a husband. And they draw each others' blood in an acceptable arena that is certainly much less hideously shameful to a woman than having her man pummeled in a drunken bar fight. And, yes, we know some hockey players get into drunken bar fights, too, but they have agents and managers to pick them out of the pokey. Nothing's worse for a woman than having to go down to the ATM and post bail for her beloved, especially because she usually has to use her own money to fish him out.
But there's an entire section of female society that I'm entirely discounting with a such a sweeping assessment. These are the female athletes, and true sports-lovers. There are the mighty women, the girls who get out on the ice and play hockey, who play golf and baseball, and basketball, and volleyball. The women who are dismissed as "dykes", because they are unafraid of their physical power, and unashamed to show up a man in "his" sport. They have discovered the power that comes in expressing strength and aggression like a man does. What a release! And how taboo for a woman! From the time we're little, women are taught to suppress aggression, to keep it under wraps, and behave like a lady. You guys may enjoy watching a catfight, but do you really respect the women when the brawl is over? No, I didn't think so. Much better that we sit in a corner and quietly cry "Oh, dear!!" as you fight over us. I'm no athlete, but one of the benefits I've found as a female hockey fan is that it provides an outlet for my pent-up aggression. All those years of smiling and behaving. Venting aggression is very liberating, and I thank the female athlete for teaching me this. I love to hate certain players and certain teams. I loathe Owen Nolan for reasons that with my little feminine mind I cannot explain. When he takes the ice, I drop f-bombs faster than I drop cookie dough onto a baking sheet. Oh, it feels good.Thank you, Owen, you f**#@ing b@$*@*d.
"Patrick. PATRICK! Eyes on me, please. She's too young for you."
My husband and I were recently sitting at a restaurant together with our kids. I was refereeing the ketchup wars; He was staring, transfixed by an 18 year old blonde in a nipple-enhancing halter top. His googly eyes finally turned back to me after a few more seconds.
"Huh? Sorry...You want dessert?"
A pathetic scenario, indeed, but one that is played out between every couple who've talked to each other for more than twenty minutes. Men can't help but stare at other women. It's biological. Part of the need to spread your seed. We wives and girlfriends have to grudgingly accept it, roll our eyes, and understand that the last vestige of glamour and mystery we held for our man disappeared the first time we bounced a check. (One of his checks, from his account). The surprise may be that we women are pretty much doing the same thing. We can't help but think in certain situations "could we make premium babies with that man?' It's the pressing desire to keep the species in prime condition. An athlete is certainly more appealing than a flabbed out coach potato in the propagation market. I mean, we're happy when we know we've got a basically good man, so we're not as driven as men to stare and fantasize brazenly at others all the time... well, except at a hockey game.
I suppose my friend ViVi has lived the ultimate women's hockey fantasy. ViVi is small and pretty, with long dark hair and big beautiful brown eyes. She told me that while at school, she worked for the hockey team, and was timing them with a stopwatch. Between each round, two of the guys would hoist her on their shoulders, and skate her over to the other end of the ice. "Ooh, they were so big and strong, and they said I was so small and light. It was nice." Every woman wants to be a princess, not a queen (that implies being a mom, the antithesis of glamour and mystery), just a princess, and ViVi got to be one that day, courtesy of a college hockey team's big burliness. Nummy.
Well, gentlemen, I've certainly opened the Pandora's box of women's secrets today. My little theory on why women watch the game of hockey. Shocking, perhaps, but basically true, at least for me and every other woman I spoke to about the game over the last few weeks. Hockey is a safe way for women to vent their anger, and it is a virtual "breeding ground" of happy thoughts. Oh, yeah, and besides that, it's a good game, too.
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