Thursday, August 23, 2007

Man vs Machine

For a guy like me who hasn't given hockey it's due for the past two decades, there's a huge learning curve involved. Only a year ago I was asking questions like: What's +/-? EV or ES? Why does PPG matter, aren't we just watching a game?

I started watching Hockey again at a great time, the beginning of the 05/06 season, right after the lock-out ended. At first, it was pretty confusing and I even bought Hockey for Dummies to help me wend my way through all the seemingly contradictory rules (believe me, if you don't know hockey, it appears pretty labyrinthine). But by Christmas I had a handle on all the rules and could even identify the players by the numbers on their backs.

I was hooked!

After the crazy SCF run in the spring I started logging onto Oilers blogs to keep that excitement alive over the summer. That's where I encountered something I love to hate, and pretty much hate that I'm starting to love it:

Stats. Statistics. The mathematical breakdown of blood, sweat and dreams.

I'm as guilty as everyone else this summer, looking at the math and seeing how it doesn't add up.

Guilty you say? Damn straight.

My crime is that I'm killing my joy. I'm snuffing out the flame of excitement that makes watching this great game so damned fun! I'm burying it in hard numbers and sober prognostications, seeing what has been, and like a jaded old bugger, assuming that it is what will be.

Well, screw that!

I'm here to have fun, not be right!

To me hockey is the chiclets on the ice, the pure adrenaline and pride of watching Matt Greene make one of the most beautiful first goals in NHL history. Shades of Bobby Orr in that one. The Hemsky goal we have on the sidebar is another one of those moments that are going to live with me for a long time. (Can You. Believe. What We. Just Saw!)

The Hot Oil competitions, the insight on these blogs, and the sense of cameraderie in a group of people who are even more obsessed than me...that's what I'm in it for.

So, I'll use the stats to keep myself abreast of what someone has done before, help me understand what kind of player they've been and make comparisons to other players - see what kind of road they might take in their career. And I'll leave it at that.

The real satisfaction for me is going to be watching a bunch of guys gel together, form a team, and battle all season long for each other and for us, the fans. Because under the stats and the contracts, these guys are just like anyone else: capable of surprising you.

After all, that's what it means to be human, doesn't it?

New Oiler Sheldon Souray with his family


Anonymous said...

Liked the way you put it all.

"...capable of surprising you". Yepper.

Statistics can be a useful tool, and I've always taken it as one aspect of assessment among others whenever they show up. And not just hockey.

Santa Merda said...

I agree. There's more to winning than how many goals you scored the year before.