A funny thing happened this past month. It turns out I rather enjoy hockey. I just can't be bothered watching men play.
In 2016 I gave up on watching the NHL on a consistent basis for a number of reasons but kept a few of the personalities in my twitter feed (@manintweed), just enough to know what's going on for workplace conversations. One of them, even though I have never listened to his podcasts, was Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) and at one point he tweeted something linking to either Angelica (@ReinaDeLaIsla) tweeting about the DJ playing "Bitch Better Have My Money" after the NWHL paycut or Hannah (@hannah_bevis1) concerning a Cassie interview and #oneleague. I don't quite remember which moment it was but I do remember tripping into the rabbit hole.
The first women's game I watched outside of the Olympics was the Buffalo Beauts 6-5 victory over Connecticut Whale from the Northford Ice Pavillion on 7 January 2017. My lasting memory of this game was the intensity. I even tweeted Angelica about it, asking if this was the norm. The answer? Pretty much.
Eventually I followed a few more writers like Meredith (@fosterwrites), Michelle (@michelle_jay3), the official TIG account (@theicegarden), and whomever else was posting from it and started hanging out at the fringes of their shared passion.
I started listening to the podcasts starting with Top Shelf because enjoyed Hannah and Michelle's twitter banter. I then stopped automatically deleting their sister pod, The Founding Four, and realized that Erica(@elindsay08) and Mike (@digdeepbsb) were rather fun to listen too as well. I placed them both in my "listen now" folder in Downcast and they became the primary way I stayed connected to the leagues.
On September 27, 2019 Michelle and Hannah posted episode number 40 of Top Shelf featuring a couple of guests giving their takes on the NCAA. Michelle made a blooper with Katy's (@fourthlines) twitter handle and for some reason I thought this was the funniest damn thing I'd heard. I would love to blame it on lack of sleep but @fork_tines was born around four in the afternoon on the 28th. I followed a few people and the next thing I know it was a full on alt account about women's hockey or women who write hockey.
Between my two accounts I discovered myself slowly interacting more and more with the people who surround the game. I would tweet questions or comments. If you look back I am responsible for most, if not all, of the bizarre start/bench/cut featured on Top Shelf (incidentally, Hannah and Michelle if you ever get tired of my personal brand of idiocy just take a page from my wife and ignore me).
I surprised myself with the realization: I was super invested.
I started really caring about game and it's storylines:
- Markham trying to keep their championship momentum against two juggernauts including the blocked-shot marathon minute against Montreal,
- Toronto making a late-season run that took them to within a win of the finals,
- Connecticut putting worry behind everyone's eyes with a couple of non-North American players and some Division III upstarts that everyone had seemingly passed on,
- The Riviters and the debacle that even I as a novice could see and ache over,
- The triple-top of the NWHL and the battle for being outright best
I ended up being laid off from a not-so-pleasant-any-more job just as the seasons were reaching their pinnacle and started watching in earnest. After Alyssa (@alyssastweeting) was on Top Shelf I started watching Aussie games when I could and the championship game found itself on my computer screen when she posted a link to remind us of the work she and her colleagues were doing. After Meredith posted a link I started watching the SDHL finals. In all I believe I watched something like nine games in a the span of a week. I stayed up late watching games that had been over for hours or even days. I kept looking at the clock anticipating puck drop. I raced downstairs to the couch whenever my son finally decided to sleep to jump in partway through a game.
These are not the actions of the disinterested.
These are actions of a fan.
So to the past and current contributors to TIG (and anywhere else you post, pod, vid or semaphore) I say thank you.
Thank you for reinvigorating a love of a sport that I had stopped watching.
Thank you for being open to a newbie to the leagues.
Thank you for the hilarity, the intensity, the passion, and the dedication you all have to the game.
Thank you for introducing me to the awesomeness that is women's hockey.
Thank you for letting me be a fan again.