Saturday, April 14, 2012

2 Degrees of Separation: The Hockey Edition

If you follow me on Twitter (and I take this opportunity to apologize for my hockey tweets if they have become obnoxious), you probably know I'm a big hockey fan. If I were Canadian by birth this wouldn't even be surprising considering hockey is Canada's most practiced religion. But I was born and raised in a country where football is king (not the SuperBowl kind of football, the FIFA World Cup kind), and might I add, in a time when the national football team was at the peak of its glory. I find football boring and unattractive, though I admit I still watch the Euro Cup finals and the anthem of the 1990 World Cup still puts a lump in my throat (and what a great anthem that was!). Still, football never grew on me. Hockey on the other hand grew faster than a cancer. Come to think of it I didn't grow up with Bollywood either and it turned out to be love at first sight.

I realized this last year but never thought anyone would care about how similar my love for Indian movies and my love for hockey are. And then someone said they'd be interested in reading about it. So there we go: you get a 2 degrees post, and just in case you were interested, you also get to know a bit more about what the heck it is I keep ranting about on Twitter.

Elegance, flow, grace 

The first reaction I got when I announced I wanted to write a post liking Bolly to hockey was: "but there's no dancing in hockey". It was said jokingly, sure, but I'd like to respectfully disagree nonetheless. Actually I suspect the main reason why I got into hockey in the first place is it had a grace and a flow that no other team sport has. Obviously that has a lot to do with the surface on which the game is played which allows for a completely different style of movement than other sports, but I was hooked on how sexy it looked and sometimes, certain teams, how much like a dance it looked. Sure it's not always a waltz, sometimes it's more reminiscent of krumping, but the visual appeal is always there for me and it has only increased with my knowledge of hockey.

Uh... Right. As I was saying, not always the classy waltz

Speaking of ishtyle, sometimes I'm so hooked on a player's skating style that I forget there's a game happening. And just like I can pinpoint Allu Arjun in a sea of backup dancers by the distinctive way in which his body moves, so I found out (and this freaked me out a bit) I can recognize my favourite Leafs player just by the way he skates. Or the way he adjusts his helmet. Ok, I'd better not start talking about this one or someone will put me in a loony bin.

Colourful, shiny and full of sprinkles

Games are a lot like my favourite Indian movies: the good ones have so much going on and they are so satisfying that I need a rewatch immediately after to make sure everything sinks in. But leaving aside my favourite ones, because not all movies can be Hadippas and not all games can end with a 5-0 for the Toronto Maple Leafs, other categories of movies can be compared to some game or other. In a single season you'll have a) the ones where it's clear that a ton of work goes in and yet the outcome is disappointing (let's call those the Raavans of hockey); b) the ones where nobody shows up to play and everyone seems to be sleeping through it (we'll refer to those as the Aishas); c) games where you wonder "what the hell were they thinking??" (Ra.One seems to be a good name for this variety); d) games that don't count on the flashy stuff to succeed (the Dhobi Ghats); e) games that do count on the flashy stuff and so on. Sure the goals are always the best part (just like the songs are in movies), but it takes all kinds of games and all kinds of teams to make a full season.

If you think about the fact that a game is usually 2.5 hours and there are about 2-5 goals per game (as you would have 2-5 songs per movie), and all kinds of action and madness in between, you can see why I don't miss Bollywood as much as I should during the hockey season.

All performers on a different stage

It started out as a sport, sure, but in this day and age, hockey is just as much an entertainment industry as Bollywood is. And its players are paid the big millions to show up every other night and perform for the fans. Some would even go as far as saying they are paid the big millions to get hurt and satisfy the fans' thirst for blood, and there is some truth to that, unfortunately. But the fact of the matter is just like actors, hockey players are no longer just players. They have to also be PR machines, social-media wizards, charity drivers, cause fighters, in other words being a damn good hockey player is just the beginning of a day's work.

Living in Toronto, also known as "the centre of the hockey universe", you get so much hockey coverage that it really feels like you know these guys personally. It's hard to not care for them like they're part of your family. Of course, everyone is, to a certain extent, only offering up a persona, not a person. But much like with actors, this persona can truly change how you feel about a player regardless of how good or bad they are on the ice.

In Bollywood I see Abhishek Bachchan as one of the coolest off-screen personalities, but God knows he's not the greatest actor alive. Similarly, the uncrowned king of the hockey twitterverse Paul Bissonnette has become a brand without being a particularly good player (still wishing the Coyotes best of luck in the playoffs just because he's part of that team!).

The bench is usually where you see Biz during a game. He's still awesome though!
If in Bollywood Aamir Khan is the man with the Midas touch, Sid Crosby is his correspondent in the NHL. Whenever he's on the ice, he delivers in spades.  Not only that, but because he is (in)arguably the best player in the world, everything he does is put under the microscope. I'm sure Aamir Khan can relate to that. And yet with all the negativity surrounding both of them, because with great talent comes great hate and great nit-picking, they always come out on top. (Ok, if you're a Penguins fan, let's just forget about the last two games against the Flyers, it's not Sid's fault.). Unfortunately Sid the Kid has resembled Aamir Khan in more ways than one this year when he was about as stingy with his appearances as Aamir's movies. Here's hoping he stays healthy from now on.

Ok, so I could have picked a more decent picture. Sue me!
And with the superstars you also have the divas. It's no secret that I adore Kareena Kapoor despite her many shortcomings and if I had to think of an equivalent for her in hockey it would be Ryan Kesler. A powerhouse of talent, and yet no one understands why he makes the strangest decisions sometimes on the ice. His histrionics have made haters and even fans dub him the Olympic medalist in diving and as much as I love him for being one of the best players out there, even I can't help but shake my head when he pulls some of his stunts to draw a penalty. As we always say about Kareena: if only... if only that talent was put to good use every time...

Last but not least there's that category of stars who appear to be so boring and inane that you can't imagine them shining in anything. And then they go in front of the camera or on the ice and... it's magic. Shahid Kapoor is one such personality, and in hockey the awkward Phil Kessel is a lot like him. I can't help but be the most intrigued by these guys because come on, they can't possibly be THAT boring in real life, can they??

You'll NEVER see him this excited in an interview. Heck, you usually wonder if he has a pulse!
The list of parallels is endless: has-beens who act like they're still it (I don't think I need to name any names from Bolly, but for hockey the most prominent one this year is Alex Ovechkin); hard working grinders who never quite get their due (Pawel Datsyuk comes to mind in hockey, though there are many others for sure, just like Konkona Sen Sharma is the first name I think of for this label in Bollywood); whatever category of actors you can think of, I can find the hockey players that suit that pattern.

Emotional roller coasters

Just like a Bolly movie can make you smile from one ear to the other and then 2 minutes later have you sniffling with a heart-wrenching moment, hockey does exactly the same for me. No other sport takes me through so many emotions in the span of 2-3 hours, from wanting to throw my shoes at the TV, to yelling at the protagonists as if they could hear me, to wanting to jump in there and kiss someone (more often than not that's Lupul, but we'll skip over my blind adoration for this man), to more pedestrian emotions such as happiness or disappointment. Most people go through the same range of emotions as me, as Twitter reveals, so it seems to be something that the sport itself provokes. I certainly don't get it from any other sport. Not surprisingly, I don't get it from most Hollywood movies either.

Speaking of emotions, just like in movies, what I often remember the most is the chemistry between players. It's not as easy as it sounds, they don't just go out and pass the puck from left to right, the really good lines are special because of the chemistry that develops on ice between those particular players. As a viewer it's palpable and exciting and you remember these "jodis" even if the game itself sucked (or the team is on your blacklist). A beautiful pass, or series of passes, beats even a goal sometimes.

No, you're not seeing double, they ARE twins!
The crazy fans

It goes without saying that Indian movie fans are a breed of their own. Stories about SRK shrines and Rajinikanth worship rituals are well known, but hockey fans are not far behind. Sure it can be argued that most hardcore sports fans go the crazy route but in Canada there's no competition for hockey. It's not just about wearing the jersey or flying the flag on your car, I've seen everything from body-covering tattoos to dog apparel, to baby clothes, to months of following the team across the entire continent, if you can think about it, at least one hockey fan is guaranteed to have done it.

Source: Puck Daddy Blog

For sure it's always fun to find out what new playoff rituals the fans come up with. So far the flavour of the year for 2012 seems to be catfish and salmon thrown on the ice. For good luck, we assume.

And if you think people throwing paper and dancing in the aisles when Chiranjeevi makes his entrance in a movie is cool, try watching this compilation of Canada's reaction to the gold winning goal in the 2010 Olympics. Toronto went completely berserk, all of downtown was blocked, people were high-fiving everyone walking in the opposite direction, I didn't have a voice the next day. Great memories!

Ah, fans are a great community, but just like the Indian movie fans, the hockey crowd only wants mass entertainers, flashy plays and instant gratification. In other words they want their good-old brainless masala. And because the industry is fuelled by the fans, there is no hope of hockey getting smarter or classier any time soon. I count myself in the rarefied ranks of people who stop to think about what they demand of a team, which is why I tend to be in the minority with my opinions on hockey. Much like I am when it comes to movies. You see now how they're so similar?

So much of OTT...

It's not just Tollywood that excels at over the top fights, the NHL and its Russian counterpart, the KHL, are pretty high up there on that. And while I usually fast forward through the fights in a movie, there's no denying that the truly ridiculous ones are a ton of fun. I don't like fighting in hockey either, and I certainly disagree with the opinion that "it's a part of the game", but when you have one of those bench-clearing fights where everyone is on the ice for it, well, even I can't help but laugh. If you're gonna do something stupid, at least make it over the top, is what I always say.

Living in the moment

In both movies and hockey I always prefer the young generation over dynasties. I know the Khans are still well loved and I know Detroit is a great team, but... meh. Give me Ranveer Singh over Salman Khan any day. That's probably why I'd rather cheer for the Edmonton Oilers, a basement team this year, and for their young super-talented players than watch established teams who never missed the playoffs since the dawn of time. Call it my tendency to cheer for the underdog. I call it young talent spotting.

And what can I say, I've never been good with history. I can't bring myself to watch old Bollywood classics any more than I can be bothered to look up Leafs history from their glory days. Who cares? There's so much good stuff to be watched now, and so much better in my opinion (in terms of quality of the game), that those historical plays, much like those black and white celluloid gems, have no chance of ever getting my attention.

So much eye candy

Last but not least... Did you think I was a sucker for a pretty face only in the film industry? Nah... I'll take it from all possible sources! Like this one:

Don't ask me how in lust I am with Henrik Lundqvist. Just don't.
So there you have it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. When I started the 2 degrees series I based it on the idea that most of my hobbies will have things in common because you know, that's why I got into them. But to be perfectly honest, this one surprised even me. So if you read all the way here (did you really???), now you know why I'm so into this hockey thing despite it being one of the least lady-friendly sports out there. Because for a sport that's not very lady-friendly, it sure has its charm...

No rhyme or reason for this one. Just felt like posting it because it's cute.


me said...

Fantastic! I've been waiting for this one. Clearly A LOT of thought went into this, and it shows. I like that you started with what I like about ice hockey, "Elegance, flow, grace " - although I only see Olympic games. Speaking of which, and fitting the theme of your piece, the images that stuck in my mind from your Gold Medal win were the ones of young Sikhs celebrating in the crowds, with the maple leaf on their turbans.
A real delight to read, even if you need some slight re-education on your "no oldies" stance re BW films! Anyone who can grow up in a football country and come to love ice hockey is brad-minded enough to get past a self-imposed blanket ban on anything simply because it's old. Thanks again for what is already one of my favourite posts of yours.

Radical said...

hey..CONGRATS of getting this post out of heart/mind and onto the blog!

this Henrik Lundqvist does have some similarities of features with Ranveer Singh!:P

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey maxqnz, thank you for the kind words (and thank you for reading, I'm sure you're one of the few who will read this one). And you're right, the turban guys were so cool, I think one is captured even in the video I posted. As they say, it's the passion that unites us all. :D

You probably watch the best breed of ice hockey if you watch the Olympics. They managed to keep all the sexy stuff while taking out everything that's ugly in this sport. Next time you watch the Olympics make sure you cheer for Canada. ;)

And in return I promise to try and catch up to some of those oldies lying around here. :)

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Vistrit, that made me laugh so hard this morning! Really? Does he?? I can't see it, but then I'm hopeless when it comes to this guy. LOL Thanks for reading my dear! :-*

me said...

I always cheer for Canada, we have so much in common, besides having the same Head of State - two small countries dominated by big, loud crass neighbours, and both have really boring dirges for anthems! (I'd still love to know what the "false North" is) :)

Zouve said...

really long post..but read through it. <3

Dolce and Namak said...

Hahaha! Cheers, Zouve! Glad you battled through this one. It was pure gushing and fangirling, but every once in a while I need to do that too. :)

@maxqnz: I'm still working on the true and false North myself. I'll let you know if ever I figure it out. :)

Mimi said...

aaaah, i missed reading your blog and i did get to the bottom! just visiting for new movies to watch. I miss bolywood viewing;)

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