Offseason

This is not supposed to be a post about hockey. So to start, let me introduce how I became a hockey fan and ultimately lead to how it currently affects my day-to-day life. If you’re not a hockey fan, skip to the middle!

My earliest hockey memory is the Buffalo Sabres sweep of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1998 Stanley Cup semi-finals. I barely remember the conference finals against Washington, not being old enough to stay up and watch. It’s tough being an 8 year old fan.

I’m still angry about this.

I remember the Sabres beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1999 to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 24 years. It was the day of my 10th birthday celebration and our neighbor cut through our cable line with a tiller or something. Oops. We still had the game on the radio though, and it was a 5-2 slaughter by Buffalo. (NOTE: My memory fails: that was only Game 4. But that conference clinching game came just two days later and I watched that as well)

I remember Jason Woolley blowing away the Dallas Stars in Game 1, but I have no memory of the injustice featured here. A boy’s dreams are shattered. In 2000 I watched as John Leclaire of the Philadelphia Flyers scored a goal through the side of the net, a goal which inexplicably stood. A few seasons of mediocrity and a lockout later and I had forgotten about my beloved Sabres.

There’s too much red and black in the NHL, but I do miss that logo.

Hockey returned in 2005 with new rules allowing for less obstruction and promoting more speed and scoring. The Sabres somehow were perfectly tailored for this new system and tore the Eastern Conference up, ultimately finishing 3rd overall, but in the 4th seed because Ottawa was just a little better. (Warning for Sabres fans: chill inducing clips ahead) They slaughtered Philadelphia in 6 in the first round, annihilated the Ottawa Senators in 5 in the second, and took the Carolina Hurricanes to seven games despite having a new injured defenseman every night. Nobody gave them a chance, yet they were 20 minutes from a Stanley Cup berth.

In 2006, the Sabres were no longer underestimated, winning their first President’s Trophy. In the playoffs, the New York Islanders fell in 5; the New York Rangers fell in 6, despite almost taking a 3-2 series lead in Game 5. The Sabres and Senators reversed their previous year’s roles in the third round, with the Senators making quick work of the Sabres in 5 and scoring the clinching goal in OT no less. A boy’s dreams once again dashed. However, at this time the hockey love was firmly cemented in my heart (aside: cement in the heart is not a good idea), and in the next few years my love of the game expanded beyond just a love of the Buffalo Sabres.

First, the Phoenix Coyotes drew my eye for some reason. They sucked so badly. In college, my uber New Jersey Devils friend and his family invited me and some of our friends to a Devils’ game in Newark. It was against Phoenix and naturally I was the only person in the arena wearing a ‘Yotes jersey. Phoenix won (their 3rd straight win with me in attendance) but that season was another failure in a long string of failures.

Somehow, the best of my teams of late.

Jump ahead to 2012 and the Phoenix Coyotes have made the playoffs for three straight years. This year they won the Pacific Division and advanced all the way to the Conference Finals, both for the first time, before falling to the (inevitable champion) Los Angeles Kings. What a ride that was. Now I just have to watch as the team gets moved somewhere else, but that’s a story for another time.

Love it.

I also enjoy watching the Vancouver Canucks. One day I might just move to the Pacific Northwest, so I’m prepared should that happen. I started following them in early 2010, just in time to see an incredible run to the Cup Final the next year. Despite my brief time on the Canucks bandwagon, the way they beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and sank the San Jose Sharks to advance to the Final will forever give me chills.

So at this point, I find myself enjoying the game as a whole, regardless of who’s playing, My traditional hate for teams like Philadelphia and Ottawa started to fade into something else. I started liking teams based on who they are and how they battle, not where they play or what their history is (except Toronto, because it’s the Leafs and the Leafs suck). This year I somehow found myself rooting for both Philadelphia and Ottawa. It could be that I love a good underdog story (see: Los Angeles Kings, who have my support despite dispatching two of my teams). I could also blame HBO’s 24/7 for humanizing the players and coaches. Or maybe I’ve just grown up.

Anyway, I love hockey. In fact, I love it so much that, come April, there is little else I do. I load up my internet feeds and watch as many games as I can (often simultaneously) of the glory that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I take it all in and savor every moment of it, trying not to miss anything. Tonight, I will come home from work and for the next 150+ minutes, indulge in a potential Stanley Cup winning game. I will be focused completely on the game, breaking only for dinner and my regular workout. However, as I just said, this is a potential cup winning game. Should the Los Angeles Kings complete their Cinderella run with a sweep of the New Jersey Devils, there will be no more hockey until October. So now, with the offseason potentially at hand (and no more good weekday TV shows on the air to queue up [aside: I love that word, queue]) I have free time.

(Non-hockey fans, start reading here!)

For the first time in a few months I have to figure out just what I want to do with all of this sudden free time, so here are my thoughts and the reason why I wrote this non-hockey related blog post to begin with:

My current obsession.

Books: I’m halfway through the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, currently 850 pages into Book 3, “A Storm of Swords.” I am taking my sweet time reading it so I can start “A Dance With Dragons” when it comes out in paperback in August. Plus, and this is only what I’ve heard, it might be a good idea to take a break after “A Storm of Swords” because the fourth book “A Feast For Crows” is much more tedious and bleak. I plan to do that as well. (Fans of the series should understand to what my blog title and header are referring. If you’re still reading one of the first two and a half books, DO NOT GOOGLE THEM) I’ve also got a few other books on my list. I’m sure I’ll get to them after I re-read ASoIaF for the 3rd time. And hey, if my writing gets any better, you might just see another long-winded blog post as I break down the characters and themes as they relate to modern life despite being based in a medieval fantasy world replete with magic and dragons.

I can’t wait… bitch.

TV: LESS THAN SIX WEEKS UNTIL BREAKING BAD!!! Seriously though, July 15th. It’s marked on my calendar. In sharpie. But for now, after Mad Men ends this coming weekend, there will be no shows I am interested in watching currently on the air. One of my coworkers has suggested I watch “True Blood.” That, or I could re-watch “The Wire.” Maybe I should marathon “Game of Thrones” again! So many possibilities!

Music: I own 5 musical instruments. I consider myself decent at all of them, but not particularly skilled at any of them. I think it might be beneficial if I actually work at learning them properly. I suppose I should have said this first, but I’m self-taught in guitar and drums and haven’t taken piano lessons in 10 years. My skills come from nowhere in particular, and in fact most of what I play now I learn by ear. I think it’s time I burned that house down and rebuilt from the ground up. After all, you can’t spell fundamentals without foundation. I also used to write some music. I haven’t done that since 2008, during the best summer ever. I’ll probably write a separate post about my music eventually, the writing process, my inspirations, etc.

My finest works to date

Art: My collection of photographs is somewhat extensive. Every year since I got my first digital camera in 2004 I’d taken more and more photographs… until 2012. It’s already June and I have very little to show for it. Maybe it’s just that now I’m settled into a work routine and have no free time (hey, what about after hockey ends!?). Perhaps it’s that I’m lame and don’t go anywhere exciting on my days off. Who knows. Maybe my photographic muse has left me. Time to grab the camera and start shooting again.

I also have a rather odd collection of paintings I’ve done over the years, from cartoon avatars to hockey logos to re-imagined photographs. I have an easel and all of my paints from home and one blank canvas yet to be transmogrified. It’s also the only canvas I have left that fits my last homemade custom frame. Actually, that’s probably the reason why I haven’t painted yet. Someday I’ll overcome that roadblock. (But it is not this day!)

Exercise: In February I started running a lot. Almost every day. I did that all the way through March. In early April, I had a bad day at work and when I went to run that day, what was supposed to be a short 2 to 3 mile run to blow off steam turned into my first half-marathon. Hard work finally paid off! And then a week later, the playoffs started. In the later rounds there was less hockey, but being May it was too hot outside to bear running.  I suppose this one isn’t really hockey related, so much. In fact, I often do my regular weight training during hockey games. There’s nothing like watching a goal go for video review while in the middle of a set of bench press. Problem solved!

Learning: I’m always learning and there’s so much I can do just at home! I have all of the work I did in college to reexamine, professional licensing exams to study, textbooks from my job that I could peruse, foreign languages to learn, skills to acquire, and whatever other random crap I can shove into this brain of mine. Oh yeah, and freakin’ Wikipedia. At this rate, how the hell do I have any free time at all? Look at all this STUFF I could beknowing!

I guess my point is this: I spend too much time watching hockey when there’s a world of excitement to discover! No, that’s not it really, but I am going to find a way to make all of these things coexist. If I haven’t done any of the above in the next week (or the week after hockey ends, whichever comes second), you are free to fly through the internet and slap me. I’m serious, I could use the encouragement.

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