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Learning to appreciate the sport of hockey

Going Long with Geisler

By Andrew Geisler
On February 28, 2014

Miami is a perfect collegiate fit for this columnist in everything but sports. Growing up a football fanatic in Columbus, where Ohio State football is the only real professional sports team, an appreciation for hockey has always been out of my grasp.

Sure, there were a few Blue Jackets games as a kid, but those were really just an excuse to eat a bunch of Donato's pizza and spend an evening with my dad - the man who passed down the apathy toward hockey gene. Around fifth grade, we gave it up and started to turn down opportunities to get Blue Jackets tickets.

After that, LeBron came to Cleveland and the Cavs held our winter attention for a few years. That is until he skipped town by humiliating a city in primetime and making me a bitter young man toward the NBA.

But as any sports fanatic knows, there is no real off-season when it comes to being a couch potato and watching sports. Having only college hoops on from January to March left a serious hole in my downtime. I supplemented this lack of sports by watching a lot of old football games. So, if you ever want to talk about the Joe Gibbs era Redskins offense, or even better, Bill Yeoman's early University of Houston veer offenses, I'm your man.

Then again, being Miami students, I know more of you filled your high school sports time on the links or playing lacrosse, and many of you love hockey. As Jerry Seinfeld might say, not that there's anything wrong with that - I just never quite understood it.

Much to others' entertainment, I often struggle to find the puck on the ice. It might sound basic, but like recognizing a coverage pre-snap on the gridiron, there's no way to learn these things without time. And while I doubt I need 10,000 hours of watching hockey, a number I must have hit by now in watching football, I struggle to watch a sport I have no deeper understanding of.

Some can watch sports simply because it's an impressive physical feat. These fans are in the "Wow, I can't believe those guys can skate like they're on foot," camp. These types love the Olympics. A person at the top of their game is what gets them to watch. Some just like the physicality in a contact sport. These folks wrote in complaint letters to ESPN when they cancelled the 'Jacked Up' segment on their NFL countdown show. For me, and maybe others, it's always been more about the strategy. Knowing what's really going on.

In hockey, it never looked like much more was going on than some skating, a magic floating black saucer I couldn't quite find, some hits every now and again and a light going off, followed by a more manly version of a soccer celebration after a goal. And these only happened a few times a game. I recognized there was more to it, but never put in the time to find out.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I woke up to the loud sounds of a Canadian man yelling Saturday morning. I could do nothing but step outside and find out what the racket was all about. What I found was a shootout between my country and the Russians in Sochi. Nothing could rope me into a sport more than Cold War round three. Sure it's a sport I don't get, but hearing "OSHIEEEE!!" from Doc Emrick had me interested.

Due to this budding interest, I was persuaded to attend a Miami hockey game this week. I'd done it in the past, but I usually asked my co-attendees if we could leave early. Technically to beat the foot traffic, but really because I felt like a person from Europe watching an American football game-you guys might love it, but I don't get it.

So last Friday, I settled in around 7:25 (yes I got there late) to see the struggling Brotherhood take on No. 4 St. Cloud State. Going in, I knew nothing of St. Cloud State, and knew our perennially excellent hockey team had fallen upon hard times this year.

I was met with a flurry of action once I took my seat. St. Cloud put one on the board, but then the RedHawks answered with three of their own in a row. Back and forth the game went with seven total goals. There was action. There were hits. I could follow the puck. Miami won 4-3; a huge upset. And by watching intently for the first time in my life, a confusing game began to make sense. It made enough sense that the next night I was back for more.

Back at Goggin Saturday, the game ended with a result not worth printing on these pages again, but by coming in for round two, I'm at least enthusiastic about a game that used to bore me to tears.

And while this newly found enthusiasm might not be enough to make me a Blue Jackets fan-that would just be disingenuous since I've heard they're actually good this year-it's safe to say I've finally found an appreciation for Canada's beautiful game like the rest of Miami's student body.

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