If you thought I was kidding about that whole “hockey as a religious experience” thing, consider this: The Hockey Holy Season begins today, on Easter, which just happens to be a bunny-centric holiday.
I’m on to something there, right? I’ll take your silence as agreement.
To celebrate, I thought I’d give myself a little challenge. Being goalie-obsessed on top of being hockey-obsessed, sometimes the love doesn’t get spread around enough to the other 5 guys on the ice.
So, today I bring you 5 Sexy Things about Hockey, Unrelated to Goalies (was supposed to be 10, if I’m being honest, but I wrote too much about the top 5):
1. Backward crossovers
Next time you’re watching a game, watch a defenseman backing into their own zone on a rush, especially if they have a decent gap on the forward(s) coming at them.
Watch as they’re skating backward and begin moving to the inside to keep the shooter to the outside (at least, they better be doing that!) Or if the attacker is weaving all around like a jerk, he may have to do a fair bit of this in both directions, which is REALLY sexy.
The hip swivel required to do a graceful backward crossover is one of the finest things about being a goalie. It’s a first row seat to that move, though it takes a good skater to do it at all, but especially to do it gracefully. I don’t see much of it at the levels I play, so it’s a special treat when I do.
I remember the first time I noticed this, he was a tall, handsome d-man playing well below his level in our novice league and I was a stumpy mess of a goalie (still am). I remember going, “Whoa” and then completely losing my timing on the shot and getting scored on.
I’m pretty sure if I ever got to play behind pros doing backward crossovers in front of me, you could score on me with beach balls. And I wouldn’t care.
2. Shot Blocking
People think the scariest thing about playing goal is getting hit by screaming pucks, but frankly, while the puck does seem to find the vulnerable spots occasionally, we’re pretty well equipped for it.
Defensemen, and especially forwards, most definitely are NOT. The armor they were is basically just thin plastic with a little padding on it. And in the pros, of course, only part of their face is even remotely protected (if they have any sense and wear a shield).
So, to me, there’s a special place in hockey heaven for skaters who willingly, for the sake of their team, put their bodies in front of a shot on goal. On a primal level it says, “This is one who will protect the nest” and that is inherently sexy.
Of course, it also says, “This one may be a little bit crazy or a little bit stupid.”
As much as I love a little cockiness in my goalies, a humble skater is a precious, beloved creature. My own love for humble skaters is surely tied to the position I play.
I’ve had a guy who scored an absolute beauty on me, like nifty puck handling to get to the net, I played the shot correctly, filled the net up, and they still managed to zing it through a little gap over my shoulder. And then they come up to ME and say, “I just got lucky there…”
What bratty hot shot skater does that?! I’ll tell you, not very many of them, but gosh, I love those guys who don’t take for granted how good they are, don’t showboat or show people up when they clearly could.
It’s just plain good karma, but it’s also pretty sexy when a fella is super talented but it doesn’t go to his head.
4. Strong Puck Possession
Crafty scorers and gritty grinders are nice and all, but the type of player that really thrills me is a guy protects the puck really, really well.
Think about it: Getting knocked off the puck is kinda wussy looking, either because you weren’t strong enough to win the battle for it, or you didn’t care enough TO battle for it.
So when a guy can use his body and his stick to keep the puck, get through/around defenders, get into the offensive zone, and get a shot on net (or better yet, do all this while having the vision to make a pass to an open teammate), that might light my fire a little bit.
It was one of my favorite aspects of last year’s Calder Cup contending Aeros team, and it’s why I can’t find it in my heart to actually hate the Detroit Red Wings. A team full of puck possession guys is like, whoa — clean up on aisle Me.
Hockey is a sport for seriously tough dudes and the locker room is not a place for the faint of heart or the dainty. So when, amid the chest pounding, you get a glimpse of the genuine love guys have for each other, it melts my heart a little.
Whether it’s Hockey Hugs (BTW, I hereby nominate Harrison Mooney for sainthood in my made-up hockey religion), Goalie Nuzzles, or the occasional Tweet from a player of, “Dang, I miss the boys” or “Hey @myOHLroommate, you suck at MarioKart #missyou”, the little ways guys show affection for each other is just endearing.
In the end, it’s about seeing a bit of vulnerability, a little softness, in guys who generally seem a little bit superhuman.
So, that’s my top five! And yes, I know I left off such nice things as “going backhand shelf” or “deking and dangling” but… no I didn’t. Those things make goalies sad. (Okay, I will admit to swooning at the occasional bout of soft hands from a forward, but I tend to lump that in with puck protection… you can have soft hands without pressure all day long, but soft hands WITH pressure? Super hot.)
What did I miss? What non-goalie, hockey sexiness lights your fire? Tell me in the comments and go have yourself a Happy Playoffs!