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The Straight Edge: Happy Valentine’s Day

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Working at The Hockey News, it’s hard not to get completely consumed with the sport we cover. So it’s no surprise that to varying degrees, the women in my life have suffered for this fact.

My wife doesn’t hate hockey, she just doesn’t quite see my need to watch Phoenix play Dallas on a Wednesday night, then switch over to Washington-New York when the first game gets boring, even though there’s only a couple minutes left in the East Coast tilt.

Despite the fact I spend so much more time watching hockey than she does, there’s always that forest-for-the-trees mentality that a sportswriter will get sometimes that another objective person will avoid and hence make some rather astute observations.

My favorite two examples:

While watching the All-Star Game this year, my wife asked, “Why is there a Ninja Turtle in the crowd?” My answer? “It’s the Columbus Blue Jackets mascot. He’s a bug. The team name is actually a reference to the Civil War, but…” Well, I ran out of explanation after that.

While the two of us attended Toronto’s infamous 8-2 beat-down at the hands of the Dallas Stars this season she said: “They keep scoring on (goalie Vesa) Toskala’s right side.” Hmmm. They certainly did – and continued to do after that. This would have been good information for the Leafs defense corps to have (Toskala was coming back from a groin injury at the time).

I like how my wife views hockey sometimes. Her parents and grandparents emigrated from Greece to Toronto at a time when the Leafs weren’t that great, so they took up other hockey teams instead. Her father is a huge Blackhawks fan, her uncle a Bruins fan and her grandfather was a Habs fan.

I always thought that was kind of cool for them to come to a new country and pick a side in that nation’s favorite pastime. For years, my wife held a grudge against Vincent Lecavalier because he helped the Lightning eliminate his own hometown Habs from the 2004 playoffs. She didn’t think that was too cool, but has recently forgiven Vinny.

On the other end of the spectrum, my mother has been subjected to wall-to-wall sports for about a quarter-century now, surrounded by my younger brother, my father and me. During our youth, she would occasionally petition for the family to watch something on TV “where people don’t have numbers on their backs.” Nevertheless, she still came to all our minor hockey games when we weren’t watching Hockey Night in Canada or the world juniors during the Christmas holidays.

The irony is that my mom has a more direct connection to hockey history than anyone else in my immediate family. Even though the three males all played in our youth, my mom actually grew up around the Maple Leafs during their final glory days. My grandfather ran a restaurant in Toronto where all the players would hang out after games – Tim Horton, Eddie Shack, Bob Baun; the whole lot. I remember her telling me that during one of the team’s Stanley Cup runs, she told Baun that every time she had ice cream before the game, the Leafs won. Naturally, Baun told her to keep up the good work.

So looking ahead to Valentine’s Day, consider this a love letter to two unlikely sources of hockey inspiration for me. I know they’d rather not talk about the trade deadline at family dinners or watch a Florida-Carolina tilt on TV, but it has helped get me where I am today and I can’t thank them enough for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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