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If you haven’t already noticed, Autumn is my absolute favorite season. Not only does it kick off a string of happy holidays, including my birthday, but it also brings a welcome weather change after our often hot, hot, hot Southern California summers.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the fall, however, is the return of hockey season. Unfortunately, the start of this fall came with an absence of the sport; the league is currently locked out, and games have already been canceled through October 24. Still, my love of the sport remains, and I await the news that an agreement has been made and the schedule has been reinstated. Until then, I’m taking a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about how I first fell in love with the game of hockey.

Although my dad took me to a few games in my younger years, it wasn’t until college that my love affair with hockey really took off. Early freshman year, I became friends with some of the members of my university’s club team and was encouraged to attend the games to cheer them on. It became a weekend routine, every Friday and Saturday night, my girls and I headed to the hockey rink. At first, we were there simply to root for our friends out on the ice, singing the school’s fight song after every goal scored and heckling the visiting team as they headed to their locker room at the end of each period.

Soon, though, I really began to understand the game, learning the players’ positions and roles, knowing the difference between a Power Play and a short-handed goal, etc. Gone were the days of partly paying attention, chatting with my friends until the puck hit the back of the opposing team’s net and the siren would sound. I grew to recognize and appreciate the strategy of the game.

These are qualities I feel a true fan should possess: knowledge of the game, appreciation for the players, and a sense of pride in your chosen team’s success. But there is one thing about the sport that I’m sure many fans would not attest to. I find hockey … soothing.

Yes, you read that right. There is something soothing about watching hockey players glide across the ice; it’s almost hypnotizing.

It all goes back to my junior year of college. I did a report on hockey for a class on sports participation and emailed a questionnaire to many of the team’s members in order to get an insider’s opinion of the sport. My favorite answers came from the simple question, “What do you love about your sport?” The responses bordered on poetic, with many claiming that they loved how hockey provided a mix of strength and grace, specifically highlighting the athletic ability and speed control that had to be mastered, all while balancing on two thin pieces of steel.

That these athletes, many of whom were nearing 6 feet tall and above, were able to dodge opponents, follow a strategy, interact with teammates, all on the slipperiest of surfaces was something that had never occurred before. They made it look so easy! And for them, who had learned to skate as easy as they could breathe, it was.

anaheim-ducksAfter that project I had an entirely new appreciation for the sport. Now an NHL partial-season ticket holder and proud fan of the Anaheim Ducks, I start off every game in a Zen-like state, watching the players glide across the ice as they fend for the puck. Unlike football or basketball, the scoreboard doesn’t consistently light up after every offensive change. There are long periods of time where the puck slides back and forth across the ice; some may find this terribly boring, but I find it exciting. Because hockey goals don’t occur very often, they mean a whole lot more. And an amazing save by your team’s goalie can be just as equally a cause for celebration.

Of course, as the game comes to an end, that Zen-like state all but vanishes and the aggression appears. I lean forward in my seat, yell at the players from all the way up in the top of the stands (because of course they can hear me) and, especially in close games, try not to hyperventilate. One form of relaxation has given way to another, I suppose.

Because really, who doesn’t want to watch a bunch of tough guys chase around a small solid object and beat each other up after a hard day at work? I sure do.

So the next time you’re looking for a little R & R, how about a hockey game—when season starts back up again, of course?

Oh, and P.S. Go DUCKS!!!