You know what I like about hockey? Hmmm, not that much, actually. I should be careful in whose company I utter such blasphemy for I am a Canadian, after all, and a veteran hockey mom. But honestly, it’s such a long season, and it’s so cold in those arenas, and I just don’t get it sometimes. The hockey that is; I just don’t get the hockey. I get that my kids love it though, and that’s why I am there. After spending an entire evening sewing namebars on to my kids’ hockey jerseys I cursed the hockey season …just not out loud. You want to know what I do like about hockey? I like the postgame handshake. That’s the highlight of the game for me.
Seriously. I think it’s just about the nicest thing in sports these days.
If you set aside for a moment the athlete egos, the ongoing body checking debate, the increasing awareness over serious concussions, and the number of hockey players with toothless grins and/or expensive dental work, you have to agree that the last bastion of sportsmanship in any sport is the post-game handshake. And I’m pretty sure it happens more often in hockey than any other sport.
I’ve been around hockey my entire life – I’ve even watched a game or two. But as a Canadian and as hockey mom, now in my 13th season (okay, I lied; I’ve watched way more than a game or two!), nothing makes me prouder of my own kids – my hockey players – than watching them during the post game handshake. Whether the kids have played their worst game ever, suffered the most humiliating defeat possible, or suffered both mental and possibly physical injury at the hands of the opposing team, they shake hands at the end of the game. That’s all. It’s not something I taught them, it’s just simply the thing to do at the end of a hockey game – an honourable tradition.
Oh, I know there are famous handshake ‘snubs’ in hockey history and that the ‘bad blood’ from a particularly emotional game will occasionally spill over once in the handshake lineup, but not often. If there is one thing you can count on when you go to a hockey game, it’s the hockey handshakes. The game officials will always skate to the benches and shake the hands of each team’s bench staff. The players will always skate to their goalie at the end of the game and hug him or her before congratulating each other. Then, players will always line up at centre ice after a game to shake the hands of their opponents and then skate to the opposing bench to shake the hands of the bench staff. What other sport can boast that?
Sadly you do not see the postgame handshake as often anymore in professional hockey games except at the end of a play-off series or end of the season, where it is still a time-honoured tradition. Clearly the practice ingrained in these players in their youth, comes alive again in the play off season. And that makes me happy.
It reminds us that sportsmanship runs deeper than the sport, and it reminds me I get to go home!