Every now and then, someone accuses me of over-intellectualizing hockey. They wander into my posts from God-knows-where and turn around and around, strewing befuddled comments every which way. “Why are you talking about Arabic poetry? What the fuck is up with this Taoism? This isn’t some fancypants French salon, my girl, this is hockey. It’s about sweat and facepunching and manly grunts, not ideas.”
This is, of course, completely wrong. Everything people do, certain reflexive bodily functions aside, is ideas. EVERY-F*#KING-THING. Just because many of those ideas are seldom or never fully articulated, laid out bare on a page for all to see, doesn’t mean they’re not there. They’re embodied ideas, ideas of practice and discipline rather than pen and paper, but ideas they are.
The evolution of hockey is also the evolution of ideas about hockey, and as such it bears a certain resemblance to the evolution of other kinds of ideas. And when one is talking about the evolution of ideas in the 21st century Western world, one eventually has to talk about Hegel.
For the record, I do not especially want to talk about Hegel, because Hegel was a nineteenth century German philosopher, and there is no more certain path to madness than nineteenth century German philosophy. It’s the gateway drug of insanity: people always insist they’re just going to try it once or twice, then ten years and two advanced degrees later you find them curled up in a corner of the library muttering untranslatable 35-letter-words with random capitalization, like Tim Thomas on ketamine.