Thoughts from Left Field: Pro Hockey and Gay Hockey

For those of you know don’t know me, I like sports. A lot.

I like watching sports, playing sports, thinking about sports and – most of all – writing about sports. “Thoughts from Left Field” will be a regular feature here. Hopefully, I can think of a better, more pun-worthy name for it. But in these features, I will just talk about whatever the heck came to my mind recently in the world of sports.

Pro Hockey

Last week, I said the Penguins-Islanders playoff series was the worst I’ve ever watched. I will not retract that statement. But I will retract the following sentence that I wrote:

“Both teams should be eliminated. That way, we can all get on with enjoying the playoffs.”

The Penguins and Islanders were both playing selfish, cheap and dirty hockey. Four games into the series, we were seeing a Kesler amount of diving.

But then, everything changed – at least for Pittsburgh. With Tomas Voukoun in net, not only did it inspire one of the greatest hockey puns in the history of the universe, it inspired the Penguins to calm down and play real hockey. The Islanders kept up the after-the-whistle BS during Game 5, but Game 6 was wildly entertaining.

Both teams stayed disciplined, both teams received decent goaltending and both teams fought hard to win instead of fighting hard against each other. Kudos to the Islanders for giving the Penguins a scare. But luckily, four games into the playoffs, the Penguins remembered what it takes to win in the postseason.

They kept up that composure in Game 1 against Ottawa, and hopefully they can continue that throughout the playoffs. If they do, then we will likely see a return trip to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2009.

But if they ever start playing like they did in Games 2, 3 and 4 against the Islanders, then they’ll be lucky to beat any one of the teams remaining. Hopefully, they learned their lesson from the Flyers last year and the Isles this year.

Gay Hockey

I’m happy to announce that I recently joined the Madison Gay Hockey Association!

The MGHA is the one of largest and proudest gay hockey leagues in the world. Their main goal is to foster a welcoming environment for the LGBTQA community and to help everyone learn and enjoy hockey.

I’ve played hockey a handful of times out on the ponds in Pittsburgh and the lakes in Madison, but I’ve never played in full gear or in an organized league. Growing up in backwoods Pennsylvania, we didn’t really have any hockey nearby. So, it’s time for me to go shopping for some gear. My bank account may hate me after this weekend, but once I hit the ice next week, I know it will all be worth it.

The main thing that led me toward the MGHA was not just hockey (though, that was obviously a big reason), it was the sense of community that everyone involved appears to have. On their Web site, they publish player essays from every season. Do yourself a favor and read through some of them.

Most people never played hockey before joining the MGHA. Many had terrible locker room experiences growing up gay or closeted around other athletes. But MGHA’s main goal is to support the community.

“We are especially committed to providing opportunities for those who have historically felt uncomfortable in traditional sports settings to learn and teach ice hockey in a safe, supportive, and fun environment. We aspire to the highest standards of sportsmanship and promote integration of the wider Madison community into the gay community,” the web site reads.

I’ve yet to put a blade on the ice or meet any other players, but within minutes of joining, I already had 32 new friend requests on Facebook welcoming me to the league.

I’m still not really sure what to expect, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it and feel like I belong…finally.

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