Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ice Hockey, violence made beautiful

Just back from watching Bristol Bulldogs under-18s play ice hockey in Bristol.

Ice hockey players are tribal warriors, ten armoured bodies swirling around at speed, in graceful curves, clashing and crashing, jinking, jumping and scraping. This game, along with Rugby, has to be the supreme example of human aggressive instincts sublimated into a breathtaking play-fight. The play moves from end to end, possession changes every few seconds, and there can be up to 100 shots on goal in a game. At one stage I saw an Isle of Wight player take the puck and weave a brilliant figure across the ice, only to lose it to Alex Arcaleo from our side, who danced an inspired figure, sweeping through the other players; the two movements were poetry in fast forward motion, inspiring.

Bristol scored first, the Isle of Wight equalised, then Bristol built up to 3-1 in the second period. IoW were desperate for a goal, and in the third period two of Bristol’s players were in the sin bin, leaving IoW with a power play, five against three (plus two net-minders). The coach called time for a pep talk. Don’t Lose It. They came out for the restart, our three ready to defend, facing five goal-hungry Wight players. Jamie Chilcott, our Jamie, took the puck from the face-off, shot through their line, took it to their netminder and scored a classic one-on-one goal. After that, IoW pulled their goalie out and put on an extra player, making it six players against three for a few minutes. They formed a circle around the Bristol goal, and rained shots against our netminder, bop, bop, bop. None went through. Our Laurie took 33 shots on goal, letting one through, a percentage of 97.

The game is magnificent, but Bristol Ice rink is from the third world: dark, dingy, mouldy, run down, a disgrace to John Nike enterprises. Worse still, there are piles of ice shavings outside, representing wasted energy. The cold from the ice piles could be used to make the refrigerators more efficient. I have tried. My last effort was to write to the Sports Minister. No reply. Must try again.

No comments: