Each year, from October to May, the life-force in our household shifts. We go from being a peaceful and relatively predicable household to an erratic and turbulent house of insanity… from a place of emotional stability to an emotional roller coaster. What is the incendiary catalyst for this extreme transition? Believe it or not, our lives are completely transformed by the start of hockey season!
As strange as that sounds, I suspect that many of you out there have experienced this unexpected shift… For some, it might revolve around football, or basketball. Others might recognize the situation during soccer season or even during the Olympics. But the dynamic of sports mania is real! All it takes is one sporty maniac to alter the vibe of the entire household. In our house, hockey season means crazy time for all of us!
Just as the fall season prime-time shows begin to premiere on TV, I can feel the change coming… My husband starts to get a little giddy. It builds up slowly, but the signs are unmistakable. He laughs more, he stays awake later at night, and he rubs my feet at least twice as much. In fact, it’s not unusual to find him playfully chasing the cats around the house for 30 minutes at a time, or peeking creepily around a corner with a strange look on his face while whispering, “ca-caw… tookie tookie” just to wig out our daughter.
You’re probably wondering if my husband drinks heavily or pops a variety of prescription meds, but alas, no! He just loves hockey so much that it actually changes his life for 7 or 8 months each year. In the beginning of the season, he has so much hope for his team that all three of us can feel the positive energy oozing out of him. It’s a great time of year! The evenings are full of silliness, and the anticipation of game time is intoxicating as he runs around the house high-fiving everyone and chanting, “Go Ducks!” Each time they score a goal, a very loud “Woo Hoo!” can be heard down the street, and we’re greeted by his victory lap around the house, complete with more high-fives. Even if they lose a game in the early season, my husband sees only the beauty of the strategy that was attempted and the learning opportunity that the team will gain from the loss.
Of course, there are several rituals that must be acknowledged and followed, lest we jinx the team with bad mojo and cause them to fall into a season-long downward spiral:
- We mustn’t ever talk about the outcome of a game until after it’s over.
- Games can only be watched from the master bedroom TV, and one of the bedroom doors must be open while the other is closed, so that the positive energy can flow in one door and not out the other.
- My husband has to wear his lucky game-socks on game day.
- If, God forbid, the Ducks begin to lose a game, the TV must be immediately turned off and my husband has to find something else to do (while watching updates of the game on his phone). That way, he rationalizes, the energy of the game play will change and they might be able to turn it around.
Now, my husband and I have had several conversations about his superstitions. Usually, my end of the conversation is something sarcastic like, “Yeah, right… the fate of all of those individual people on the team is actually tied up with whether or not YOU open the bedroom door.” His end of the conversation usually includes something along the lines of, “We’ll never know for sure, will we? Now we need to stop talking about this before we jinx the game!” What makes this even more fascinating is the fact that my husband, a programmer and an engineer for over 20 years, is normally a very logic-based type of guy, not prone to emotional responses or irrational superstition. For some reason, that guy seems to disappear for several months of the year. We’re not sure where he goes.
As the season progresses, the tone in the house slowly begins to change… the general feeling of hope and happiness on game days begins to morph into a feeling of nervous anticipation. Suddenly the losses begin to feel more detrimental… each and every goal of each and every game starts to matter as the playoffs edge closer and closer. My husband’s pre-game giddiness turns into nauseated tension. In fact, there have been many game nights when he has skipped dinner altogether because his stomach couldn’t take it. If I dare to propose that he should relax a bit and let it go because it’s just a game, I’m met with eye-rolling and a sigh that implies that I’m the crazy one.
If the Ducks don’t make the playoffs, my husband slips into an inconsolable state of immediate weariness and depression. My daughter and I feel his sadness so distinctly that we inevitably slip into it with him, at least for a while. For a few weeks after they’re out, my husband will wander aimlessly around the house, almost as if he’s lost. He’ll stop in the middle of the living room and stare without emotion at the TV while twirling his hair, like a computer that suddenly went into reboot mode. His usual “me-time” vices don’t fulfill him. He jumps around from the couch to the garage to the yard, looking unsuccessfully for something, anything at all, to fill the void. His patience in all areas wanes and my daughter and I instinctively know to give him a wide berth when it comes to all issues.
Now, if the Ducks DO make the playoffs, then there is great celebration and happiness in our home, for at least three or four days! Woo Hoo! Back to the giddiness and silliness! And then, bam, we quickly move into a serious time of hope, tempered with extreme focus on superstition and good mojo. In an effort to be supportive and do all that we can do for our team, we begin to wear our Ducks jerseys, honk our horns when we see Ducks paraphernalia around town, and chant positive hockey affirmations at each other while passing in the halls (being very careful not to talk about outcome at all because that would be a jinx).
Once the playoffs actually begin, our family moves into the final stage of an “all or nothing” mentality. The mood in the house is either very happy or very serious… nothing in-between. My husband watches each game like a hawk, shouting at the TV when the refs don’t do their job, cheering and dancing when they’re rewarded with a power play or they score a goal. My daughter and I usually stay away from the master bedroom during playoff games so that we don’t interfere with any energy that might influence the game. We keep close tabs on the scores with our phones from the living room so that we know which kind of encouragement to provide when my husband emerges between periods.
You can probably guess what happens with the rest of the season… if they win, we all experience a boom of joy and playfulness that lasts for days and days! After all, we just won the hockey lottery! If the Ducks lose, sadness and disappointment follow us around for several days, as if we lost an old friend. But win or lose, it always ends up feeling kind of like moving day. You know, that day when you’re about to forever walk away from a place that’s had lots of highs and lows, and into an unknown place full of possibilities. As always, we pack up our Ducks trunk, filled with our emotional roller coaster, and put it in storage until next season. Go Ducks!