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Watching hockey through a muddled, bloodied lens

Sometimes it takes something else to like something else.

NHL: Preseason-Boston Bruins at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been getting back into professional wrestling. What was a quasi-unrelated hobby of mine throughout my school years — motivated mostly by having a family friend that got the WWE pay-per-views for free through his telecommunications job, back when they weren’t available on their stupid subscription network — was just something to completely divert what I thought my interests were. I was this snobby teenager that thought I knew absolutely everything and the perfect trajectory of what to become, teaching music at some university somewhere or being lucky enough to perform for a living. That’s dumb! Who realistically thinks about their future like that?

Wrestling didn’t fit in with that archetype of a jazz nerd that would bring up the genre and culture whenever they could and annoy the shit out of anyone that didn’t want to talk about it. Watching pro wrestling is usually looked down upon from some of the greater masses, and it certainly was by some of my peers in the music scene when I told them that I couldn’t make Sunday’s gig because I was too busy watching the Royal Rumble. It was this thing done in the dark, creeping around and just simply disconnecting from the stresses of the future, to see dudes crash into each other at full speed on a giant ass TV in my friend’s basement.

So when I was able to rediscover it as “more of an adult” I have been able to simply enjoy it even more so and it’s all thanks to the past several months of what All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has been able to do to my brain. If you don’t follow it at all, I apologize for roping you in to reading this, but the world of professional wrestling hasn’t been this enticing or heated for multiple decades. This promotion just a couple years old that has been funded by the son of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner has completely overtaken any thought of what wrestling can be and it can be really fucking fun. It might be fan service, but that’s everything that makes it so special. Dream matches that you wouldn’t think would be ever possible, colliding worlds, having a rooted connected to independent wrestling that makes the hardcores appreciate it; it is simply the best and this newfound passion has seeped so deep into the stem of my brain that I cannot think about anything else without a wrestling-colored lens over it.

So when the Philadelphia Flyers take the ice for their season opener this Friday and play a bunch more games that actually mean something in the standings, all I will be able to see it as, is a grander storyline unfolding. That’s what is great about professional wrestling when it’s done right — it is simply stories told through people yelling into microphones at each other and then physical interaction. Hockey can be the exact same thing, but less on purpose.

As we get caught up in the small details of roster building, line construction, pairings and partnerships, I find it rewarding to take a step back and view the entire picture for what it is. Maybe it isn’t the perfect way to enjoy sports and I’m not saying anything is the correct way; I’ve just found sometimes it’s much more pleasing to view it through some sort of uncontrollable optic that you are dealt the hand you are dealt and there is nothing else to do but look cautiously as you go through the annual ride.

We can debate all we want about what player should play more, why our favorite team should trade for this player or why one of the players on said favorite team absolutely stinks like dogshit; but like everyone in the entire world, we have preferences and comparing players without taking into consideration our preferences can be a futile exercise. Just as I try to take into consideration prior and present life experiences, I understand what I like in a hockey team or in a professional wrestler and I don’t really want to use the word “better” or “best” in concert when describing those entertainment pawns. It is obviously much more common when dealing with the world of sports compared to the narratives of wrestling, but looking at it in that same glowing light of a centerpiece as something that you just know you enjoy, has led me to simply enjoying things so much more.

Claude Giroux is going to be a Hart Trophy contender in his final year of his current contract and can force the Flyers’ hands? Rasmus Ristolainen was actually better and was just stuck in a shit organization that made shit decisions? Joel Farabee takes yet another step into stardom? All of these can have connections as storylines that I feel can be suffocated by the statistical arguments that sometimes creates needless nuisances when you just want to be entertained.

Maybe you, reader, aren’t wrapped up in those debates and conversations and are simply enjoying the greater story of a hockey season. Maybe this is all repeating what you have already thought and maybe never deferred from. I envy you. I’ve been trying to soak up as much hockey knowledge as possible for as long as I’ve been writing posts about this weird sport, and most of that has led me down a path of trying to seem like the more intelligent knower-of-things and trying to prove my half-argued point about a player that isn’t even in the league anymore, like a highschooler first joining a debate team and screaming over their opposition. I needed to invest my interest in something completely unrelated to get at the root of my hockey fandom. I needed to grab onto that lens, desperately gripping on to it as my fingers turn milky white at the tips and force myself to get away from that instinct to compare; that instinct to be correct or have the correct opinion.

A rejuvenation of my professional wrestling interest was needed for me to find out what I want to enjoy about the sport I care most about — another angle to look at things from and realize that maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned about contracts or what player is attempting more shots when on a line with that other player. I felt that I needed that secondary option to lean back on to continue enjoying this sport at times. It’s just a big story and to have preferred narratives but to understand that whatever happens, will just happen. To go “damn, alright” and move on. That is what I hope carries me through the long winter like a big hunk of animal fat, sometimes an interest wanes but a simple spark of something else and being able to take that spark and create a whole new bushfire of enthusiasm.

Who knew that all I needed to do was watch more professional wrestling?