The non-sports enthusiasts will never understand. They see a puck, sticks and skates and try to calculate joy. Every time our boys step on the ice, we- the lucky ones, experience it.
Sleep is irrelevant to the true fan.
You feel honoured putting your game face on at 4:00 am due to the time zone change. You end up weeping more often in a week than you have in six years. As you breathlessly wait for the sweet sound of the starting whistle, eyes glued on the television, you get shivers during the national anthem. Your lucky jersey nestles comfortably over your skin, briefly reminding you of the past. Emotions, only visible to you, have been soaked into its very fibres- nervous sweat on the in-seams of the arms from an intense overtime. Dried, tangible sadness of loss, which cascaded down your cheeks, rests peacefully on the chest. The frayed cuffs adorned in your team colours, retain your many celebrated “after-goal high fives”. Anticipation and anxiety crease the logo. The folds are lined with a small dose of humility.
When the high-pitched noise radiates throughout the stadium, signalling the start of it all, you finally exhale.
During play, nothing matters. The ringing of the phone, the dog barking at the door are all silenced by the roar of the crowd. The narrowly missed goal pings on the crossbar which pulsates through your body as if it were your own heartbeat. It is just you and your team, playing for victory.
In, out. Overtime, final. Loose, win. They are just words. The translated feelings, now those you know all too well. Relief, disappointment. Hope, redemption. Despair, invincibility.
You’ve followed these boys from pre-season till now; every shot, every goal, every victory, every heartbreak, every game. You’ve cheered until your throat was raw. You’ve passionately fist-pumped till near shoulder dislocation. You gave it your all, with an unspoken agreement that your boys too, would give it their all.
Regardless of the outcome, next season when they take to the ice, you will be one of many who is standing there behind them. Supporting them, proudly wearing your lucky jersey just like the previous year; same stadium, same boys, same anticipation. The difference is one that only you feel; your same beloved jersey is adorned with a little bit more emotion than the last season.
So please, don’t ever tell me it’s just a game.
To stay in touch with your favourite sports team while off on your adventures:
•to listen: tune into your local sports radio station (Bell mobility app or the TuneIn Radio app) and listen online.
•to watch live you may need to subscribe to online streaming. (CBC, NHL) Make note of international restrictions. There is no use spending your precious travel money if it won’t work.
•Sports bars and casinos may change the channel if there are no local games playing at the time and if you’re really charming
•to cheaply watch a game, Skype or FaceTime your best sports buddy and ask them to put the camera on the television. Remember not to be a prick towards them because you are at their mercy. One bad joke and you’re video feed is cut.