By Martin Wightman
Sports coverage has always been a media sector rife with clichés. With National Hockey League playoff season in high gear, the air is full of advice: Keep your stick on the ice, get some pucks on the net, just keep skating hard and playing your game. Give 110 per cent. Leave it all on the ice. Work it down low. Dig in the corners. Play the body. Keep banging and smashing. Stave off elimination.
At the end of it all, someone will ask the captain of the winning team how he feels. “It’s totally unbelievable … I can’t even describe it,” he’ll say, after a pause. For the losing team, there is always next year.
Sports journalists are in the type of endless, cyclical line of work that weather announcers are. There’s always next season, both in weather and in sports. I suspect the seasonal life we live in Canada affects our outlook on life more than we realize. As we cycle from summer to fall to winter to spring to the playoffs back to the summer, we subconsciously ground ourselves. Knowing what comes next helps Drydenites to stay sane during the down times. March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. April flowers bring May flowers.
The cliché about the playoffs is that it lasts nine months. The cliché about winter is that the cold and dark lasts nine months. Leafs fans simply experience darkness all year round.
The NHL has its own cliché this year: the head shot. Each game, it seems, someone attempts to obliterate someone else’s brains. The hits are as unintentional as slipping your phone number to the attractive guy at the bar. And the NHL is as serious about it as the guy at the bar is about relationships. Or so it seems to many.
For me, the on-ice thuggery is getting a little out of hand — I am not enjoying the playoff season as I usually do. But, taking a lesson from the weatherman, if the current season doesn’t do it for you, it is better to look for ways to stay entertained, rather than complaining and moping. As Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist, once said: “To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June.”
For example, you can still find the NHL playoff coverage entertaining: radio announcers, reporting last night’s scores, are always looking for creative ways to report them. As they roll through the results, the winning teams bested, trounced, triumphed over, careened past, dismantled, placated, doused, thrashed, edged, harpooned, and overwhelmed the losing teams. They cannot — repeat cannot — simply have “beat” the other team. The colourful variety is a little over the top, but thumbs up for keeping it fresh, fellows. Roget would be proud.
No matter which season you happen to like, be it summer or winter, playoffs/headshots, or road construction (also a famous Canadian season), you can take comfort in knowing that the next season is just around the bend. For the moment, keep your stick on the ice. Give 110 per cent. And remember, there is always next year.