hockey will break your heart

…and you won't know it until it's too late


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Two games I won’t be watching tonight…

…one out of fear and nerves, one out of anger and loss.

(Disclaimer: I realize this piece is very ME ME ME, and obviously whether I enjoy a hockey game or not is not all that important in the grand scheme of things.)

The NLWC game between the Pirates and the Cubs will make me waaaay too nervous to watch. I want the Pirates to win too badly to be able to sit and watch it. I’ll mostly stick with ABC’s Wednesday night sitcom lineup, and my heart will leap every time my phone dings with a notification.

I would love to be watching the Chicago Blackhawks tonight, letting their Stanley Cup banner raising and subsequent victory over the hated Rangers keep my mind off the Pirates and whether or not they can hit Jake Arrieta.

But I just can’t. I was an ardent Hawks fan. Not quite like I’m a fan of the Blue Jackets. I don’t live in Chicago, I live in Columbus. I’m a CBJ season ticket holder. I adore the Jackets with the passion that comes of being there for every home game,watching their legendary (and not in a good way) struggles and loving them for it.

I’m a Pittsburgh Penguins fan by virtue of having lived there for 27 years, and for having been introduced to hockey by Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens and Jaromir Jagr winning Stanley Cups together. Their loss in the ’93 playoffs to the New York Islanders broke my heart and broke my fandom for a lot of years. It took fandom of a different kind to bring me back to hockey, and I returned with a vengeance. (And with season tickets.)

My love for the Blackhawks is recent (and may have surpassed that of my Pens love) and completely intertwined with my love for two very special people. One lives in NYC and the other in Portland, OR. We meet twice a year in Chicago, where it’s all Blackhawks all the time for a handful of glorious days. The fan convention in July, games in the dead of winter. I already have my plane tickets bought for this upcoming February. We were at the Stadium Classic in March of 2014, where we froze our asses off and had the best time ever. We once had the opportunity to spend some time with Jonathan Toews, and let me tell you, a nicer, funnier, more charming and accommodating person I’ve never met. I have so many happy memories of the Chicago Blackhawks. Daniel Carcillo once poured me a drink.

And all that winning has made it even more fun, clearly.

And now it’s gone. Every memory is tainted, all the excitement of the upcoming season is gone. Jonathan Toews may be a sweetheart, but he’s also a guy that seems fine with whatever Patrick Kane may or may not have done. Every jersey, every autograph, every penny I spent on traveling, tickets, merch, are just sad reminders that the anticipation for another awesome Blackhawks season is done.

And I don’t mean because of Patrick Kane. There are assholes everywhere, in all walks of life and all professions. At this point, his guilt or innocence isn’t even the issue. I am worn down by the “innocent until proven guilty” crowd, exhausted by the misogyny of the specific kind of victim-bashing that comes with the accusation of a famous person, particularly an athlete. The leaking of DNA reports, the smarminess of Kane’s lawyer, the unfortunate behavior of the victim’s mother, the crap the Buffalo News prints, have all combined to make me sad and tired.

But it’s the Blackhawks as a team i’m angry with. By embracing Kane, they’ve made it pretty clear that rape is a crime that doesn’t particularly matter, at least not when compared to hockey. Who cares about women, amirite?

I feel like the whole training camp/press conference thing was very much a testing of the waters. Had a majority of fans reacted badly, I imagine Kane would have been quietly shuffled off back to Buffalo. But when the fans embraced him, the organization was able to ease him back into the fold, until the next thing you know, he’s holding the football for Andrew Shaw’s fieldgoal attempt at a Bears’ game.

Neither the Hawks nor Kane would have suffered had they suspended him until the DA makes his decision about charges. Remember, I used to live in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger is doing just fine, believe me. Michael Vick draws more animosity from fans there than Big Ben ever did. How’s Kobe’s career doing? What about Drew Doughty? Semyon Varlamov? Mike Ribiero? Allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence don’t seem to have hurt them at all, whether they were charged, arrested, suspended, settled in court, or not.

No, by pretending that accusations of rape are a mere “off-ice issue,” a ‘distraction’ that can be overcome with enough wins and banners and Cup celebrations, the Blackhawks have joined the ranks of the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and the Nashville Predators as teams that stick by their players no matter what and value winning over anything else.

Oh, wait, the Kings don’t stick by all their players, do they? Let some guy with a history of multiple concussions get caught with prescription pain-killers, a problem that, whatever else it may be isn’t a “character” issue, and he’s terminated so fast it makes your head spin, because it’s good business. (I don’t give the Kings any more credit for Slava Voynov than I give the NFL for Ray Rice post-video. From what I gather, there were photos so awful that they didn’t have any choice but to suspend Voynov.)

The NFL has lost me, mostly, these days, for a myriad of reasons. The NHL is trying real hard to do the same, not all that long after I re-found my love for hockey. Bettman’s refusal to see sexism anywhere, or admit it if he does, plus the league and individual teams protecting players from the consequences of their actions, make me both sad and angry.

To top if off, every time I go to a Blue Jackets game I’m confronted with half-dressed ice girls, their cleavage bouncing as they shovel snow alongside their male counterpoints, who are warmly dressed in track suits. It all seems of a piece these days.