As the Lightning continued to advance in the NHL playoffs, I became aware of my limited hockey knowledge.
Off sides, power plays and hat tricks have sunk in over the years. Mostly, I’m concerned about not knowing the game’s history. Tradition so often tempers the significance of a contest and I’m one of the many who know zilch about the history of the sport.
Baseball, basketball and football always provided enough entertainment, leaving little time for other sports. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to further my hockey education on my own.
Doctors read about new medical procedures, lawyers new laws, accountants new loopholes. Therefore, I rationalized, as a professional I should stay abreast of significant matters pertaining to sport.
My eureka moment came when I stumbled upon a ratty looking book, Fifty Years of Hockey, A History of the National Hockey League‘ by Brian McFarlane.
Beautiful a hockey primer. What every hockey virgin needed.
I’ve always had the ability to absorb useless sports knowledge. So I figured I’d be a hockey expert in no time, probably even bilingual after reading all those French Canadian names. Note to self: eau sounds like “o.”
Premiere_Coupe_Stanley_1893 The original Stanley Cup
Thought the book only covered through 1967, I’ve since learned that the NHL came into being in 1917, which I think was the year a couple of French Canadians got together and invented ice. “If we can pour our V.O. over it, we ought to be able to play hockey on it.”
And for you trivia buffs, the original Stanley Cup was purchased in 1893 by Lord Stanley of Preston, the sixth Governor-General of Canada and a keen hockey fan. Price: ten pounds or slightly less than $50. Before 1926, the cup was intended to be a challenge trophy, symbolizing hockey supremacy. After 1926, it was limited to teams in the NHL.
Photos allowed me to grow familiar with some NHL greats, such as Stanley himself, who looked like Sigmund Freud; Howie Morenz, “The Statford Streak;” and Joe Malone, the man who had an uncanny resemblance to Gomez Adams.
The universal theme of the photos is “Don’t smile.” Obviously, dentistry has come a long way since the early years.
My education is coming along. And I still have all my teeth.