Saturday, March 19, 2016

Crap...I'm a curse!

It's official...I'm a hockey curse.

I'm not superstitious, and I didn't want it to be true, but the facts are pretty damning.

As you know (my imaginary readers!), Samantha Wayland and I are visiting all of the hockey arenas. We started on a whim with Pittsburgh last year and apparently in our delirious excitement of being at that game, we decided we should visit all the arenas...I'm already dreading Winnipeg, Manitoba...I hear it's freezing there!

So, at the beginning of this season, we decided on Montreal and Dallas. Dallas is my close second favorite team, next to the Bruins. Sometimes Dallas is my favorite, just don't tell my Boston loving friends and family. And there were two players that I wanted to see the most, Carey Price, from Montreal, arguably one of the best goalies ever, and Tyler Seguin, from Dallas, equally amazing, one of the top goal scorers, and pretty nice to look at. Plans were made, flights and hotels were booked and I couldn't wait.

Then Carey got injured early in the season. I wanted to cry, because he was going to be out for our game. I even bought a "Keep Calm and Carey On" tshirt. His injury was pretty bad and he's been out basically all season, and Montreal isn't going to make the playoffs for the first time in forever. Sorry about that, Habs. I had no idea of my power.

Months go by and we are getting closer and closer to heading to Dallas. We leave on Easter, yep, I didn't look at the calendar, and I was getting so excited to see the Stars. Our tickets are row 3...that's right, row 3...behind the home bench. Only a thick slab of glass between me and my favorite team (yeah, I said it, favorite). Tyler's abs, and that grin, will be so close, but I guess it's a good thing that he never got that restraining order, because he was injured this week. 10 days before Sam and I head to Texas, his Achilles' gets sliced (only 15%, thank god!), and he's out 3-4 weeks...are you kidding me?! I wanted to cry.

I didn't want to believe it, but I'm totally a curse. And, side note, the first Bruins game I went to this season is when Chris Kelly's femur just fractured into pieces. No one was even touching him. I don't want to miss live games, but my appearance is apparently detrimental to the players' health and safety.

I joked with Sam that the only reason the Pens were safe was because it was a last minute trip, no time for the powers that be to injure our favorite players because we planned the trip two days before we left. Then she reminded me that, while everyone was safe during the game we attended, a game or two later, Sidney Crosby was injured and out of the line up for a handful of games. Like the powers that be had to catch up with my presence.

One last side note, I have Dallas Stars sweatshirt, and when I wear it, the Stars lose. How is that even possible? In fact, when they played the Bruins this February, I didn't have it on and the Stars were up 3-1, then I put it on during the first intermission, and the Bruins came back to score 6 goals...6 freaking unanswered goals...and the final score was 7-3 Bruins. I swear, I can't make this shit up! I also refuse to wear that sweatshirt on Stars game days, and the day before game days. Have to be careful will this insane power I apparently have.

I fear that the only way to keep these players safe is to either stay home, or not state my love for any of them. And I can't stay home, Sam and I have 27 arenas left to visit. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to cry about the fact that Tyler's abs would've only been three rows away from me. I take comfort in the fact that he should be back for the playoffs.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why do I have to choose?

As I sit here, watching the Bruins on TV, the Stars on my laptop, and the Hawks/Pens game on my phone, I think about the grief I get for liking more than one team. How dare I cheat on the Bruins by following and rooting for other hockey teams? Why am I not allowed to recognize and support the amazing talent and skill in other hockey players just because they don't wear the spoked B? I want to learn everything I can about this sport, and I truly enjoy watching games every night. Which is definitely a perk when you follow more than one team. Except for tonight. Too much hockey!

Now there is an order of favoritism. The Bruins are always first, but are closely followed by the Stars, then the Hawks, the Pens, and I recently added the Sabres. I wanted an underdog team to root for, so I'm slowly learning about the Sabres. I'm just reading the NHL alerts on that game tonight since my electronic devices are all in use with the other four teams. Who made this schedule? Don't they know that trying to focus on four different games is difficult?!

Back to the grief...who made these ridiculous rules that you can only follow one team? Yes, I understand rivalries, and I will never root for the Habs, but I can acknowledge that their goalie, Carey Price, is one of the best goalies in the league, and with his numbers last year, he's probably one of the best goalies ever. It's amazing to watch him, even though I should hate him as a Bruins fan. *Side note - see post on our visit to Montreal and my shirt of choice*

You can find articles on ESPN and other sports sites stating that true fans are the ones that only support the home team. I think that's ridiculous. I support teams that I want to watch. That I have a vested interest in multiple players from each team. And yes, if more than one of my teams makes the Stanley Cup playoffs, it will be a nail-biter, but I will root in order of my favorites.

So when people tell you it's wrong to support more than one team in each sport, ignore them. As long as you take the time to learn about the players on each team, watch the games, and take a vested interest in their results, you could follow all 30 NHL teams. Not that I'd suggest that. That would be a lot of freaking hockey!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Yes, I'm a woman, and yes, I finally get paid to play professional hockey

Okay, not me personally! See earlier post regarding constant sprained ankles whenever I tried to ice skate. But this year something amazing happened...the NWHL. It's the first professional women's hockey league, and the players actually get paid. Granted it's not a huge salary like most of their male counterparts, but it's a start. And hopefully, as the NWHL's popularity grows with fans, these amazing athletes will make a living wage, instead of having to hold a day job, while training, traveling with their teams, and kicking hockey butt!

Until 2015 the only women's professional hockey league was based in Canada and the players weren't paid. What did these former female Olympians and college players do after the Olympics ended or they graduated from college? Why couldn't they continue their athletic dreams and make careers playing a game they excelled at? Hopefully the NWHL is the answer.

They currently have four teams, the Boston Pride, New York Riveters, Connecticut Whalers, and Buffalo Beauts. This past November, I attended the home opener for the Boston Pride, as they took on the Riveters at Harvard. The rosters are a mix of former Olympians and college stars.
There are no fights in this league, or checking, and the game is faster. And, it's amazing to see a goalie that can't recline back on the top crossbar like Tuukka Rask. There's so much more net to cover when your body doesn't fill the entire net space like so many male goalies in the NHL, which should result in higher scoring games.

The game was fascinating to watch and the arena was decently full of fans. At only $20 per ticket, it's very inexpensive to attend, so if you're in the area of one of these teams, make sure to go catch a game or two. They play through April, so you have plenty of time to get out there and support this new league.

Hockey and Romance...yes please!

As I mentioned before, I started reading hockey romances when I became Samantha Wayland's critique partner. Have you read her books? They're fantastic, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. Her characters jump off the page and demand attention. Even if ménage and male-male aren’t your thing, you should still give her a try. Her books are so well written that you’ll be hooked. I’d never read male-male until her Hat Trick series. In fact, I’d hesitated to read them since I'd only read straight romances and wasn't sure if I'd like them, but boy, was I missing out. As a romance reader, I love seeing the heroes vulnerable as they fall in love. Well, with male-male, you get to see it happen twice. How could I not fall in love with strong heroes falling in love with each other? So if you’re on the fence, I say, give them a try. You can thank me later.

After devouring Sam’s books, I searched for other hockey romance authors to binge read, and there are quite a few out there. I can definitely recommend the following:

Toni Aleo's Assassins series was the first hockey series I read after Sam’s books. Her heroes are awesome. I instantly fell in love with the team. Each book was better than the last, and if Jordie, her hero in the last book, Overtime, doesn’t break your heart, than I don’t know what to tell you. I definitely sobbed at the end of that one. 
Her second hockey series, the Bellevue Bullies features a heroine who's goal is to make and NHL team. She's feisty and strong, and the banter with the hero is fantastic.

Catherine Gayle's Portland Storm series is a must read. Her plots tackle hard issues, including abuse and serious illness. Each book will pull at your heartstrings and after reading the first in the series, Breakaway, I was immediately hooked, and needed a box of tissues. (Currently free on Amazon, so you have no excuse not to download it!). Another thing I love about Catherine's books is that she has a lot of scenes actually on the ice. Some authors spend more time focusing on the players' lives off the ice, but Catherine's books put you right in the game. I've learned quite a few hockey facts from her books. A true combination of romance and hockey in her books.

Helena Hunting's Pucked series will have you laughing your ass off. I dare you not to chuckle at the antics her characters find themselves in. All I will say is watch out for the caped MC and spiders!

I also loved The Deal by Elle Kennedy. Pretty sure I read it in one sitting, smiling for most of it, with a few shed tears along the way. It's a great start to her Off Campus series, and you should definitely try her books.

I'm currently reading Ryker by Sawyer Bennett, the latest in her Carolina Fury series. Another fantastic read.

If you like hockey and great characters falling in love, than you cannot go wrong with any of the above suggestions. Try a few out and let me know your favorites.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

You drove nine hours for WHAT?

On a Monday evening in March this year, Sam Wayland messaged me that she was heading to Pittsburgh later that week to pick up her friend and move her to Massachusetts. Then she said that there was a Pens game the night she arrived and she was tempted to go. After telling her how jealous I was that she was going to be there for a game, she asked if I wanted to join her. She was driving down Thursday (as in three days away), picking up the moving van Friday morning, and driving back. I laughed. How ridiculous. I’d have to request time off from the day job, only giving them two days notice, find tickets, and, oh right, rationalize with myself that driving nine hours to see a hockey game wasn’t insane…especially since I’d just started watching hockey three months before.

Yeah, it didn’t take much convincing. I might have told my manager that I had to go out of town for a last minute thing…hey, it wasn’t a lie! So tickets were purchased (row 8 behind the home bench) and we were off to Pittsburgh two days later. Try explaining to everyone that you decided to drive nine hours one way to go to a hockey game when they weren’t even playing the Bruins. I even bought a Pens t-shirt so I could blend in as a fan. Not sure I can wear that in public in Bruins country, but when in Rome…

We drove into Pittsburgh, giddy with stupid excitement, still amazed that we were actually about to go to a Pens game. Sam Wayland may be a bit of a Sidney Crosby fan. Not that I blame her. He’s not doing that great this year, but he’s typically amazing. One of the top players in the league. And I wanted to see Kris Letang in action. He had a great season last year, 54 points for a defenceman…and he’s not bad to look at! I may have fangirled…just a little.

But the arena was awesome…nicer than TD Garden in Boston. Comfy seats, yummy cheese fries, and the nicest fans. The entire arena sang the anthem. It was impressive. Why can’t we do that in Boston?

Then the game started. The Pens dominated in the first and were up 3-0 by the end of the period, getting a fourth goal in the first minute of the second period. We jumped up and cheered with every goal…you’d never know we were from Boston! Then halfway through the second period, the Oilers started scoring. Four unanswered goals. Halfway through the third period they were tied and I thought, if the Pens lose, I’ll never be able to go to a live game again, since the only other game I’d attended was the Bruins losing to Columbus.

Thankfully they scored two more goals and won the game. I don’t think I could’ve yelled louder if I’d tried. 

It was on the drive home, the next morning, in the moving truck, most likely from the delirium of driving through nowhere Pennsylvania for endless hours, that Sam and I came to the insane idea that we should go to all the other arenas. Our husbands laughed when we told them, but we are determined.

I even made a spreadsheet to track everything. My first goal is to see every team live. Much more attainable than traveling all of the US and Canada to watch hockey games! 

If you have a chance to visit the Consol Energy Center and catch a game, I highly recommend. They even give you a booklet with all the players’ stats. 

Next arena visit….Montreal! Arch rival of the Bruins!

How the Insanity Began!

A little background for you. I’m not a sports fan. I’ve never really enjoyed watching games on TV, except tennis with my husband and his best friend because there’s yelling and booze involved! And, going to game, no thanks. I’d rather be reading.

Then I became friends and critique partners with Samantha Wayland. She writes steamy ménage and M/M romances, with hockey players, that are amazingly well written and I couldn’t get enough. She’s an avid Bruins fan and suggested I watch a game. I scoffed. No thanks. I’ll stick to my books. But, then I caught a Bruins game on TV, and the speed and grace that the players have zipping around the ice when every time I’ve tried to ice skate, I manage to sprain my ankles, was awesome to watch. The pure skill in moving a rubber disk in and out of their own feet and the other players on the ice, as they skate from one end of the rink to the other. I was hooked. Baseball and football bore me, but how can you get bored when you are constantly watching the puck?

Then came the fights. Now I’m a historical romance lover, and I love a good duel, which is exactly what these men do. They stick up for their teammates. If an opponent wants to target a smaller guy on the team, his burly teammates will jump in. They have a little conversation with their opponent, drop their gloves and try to get in a few good hits before the refs break it up. An old-fashioned duel at it's finest.

I watched a few games, continued to marvel at their speed, toughness, and amazing skill on the ice, and I was obsessed. I would tell people that I was watching hockey and they’d say, it’s because of their hot bodies and great butts. It made me insane. Have you seen all that padding? How am I looking at their butts when they're on the ice. Do people say that to female fans of football or baseball, when the players’ figures are displayed in tight fitting pants? No, of course not.  But hockey…I must only like it for their asses.
Now, don’t get me wrong, they are a lot of hot men that play hockey. I love seeing them in their tailored suits before the games and in interviews, but when they’re covered from head to toe in padding and helmets, that’s when I’m mesmerized. They can even skate backwards….again, sprained my ankles just standing in skates every time!

Typical setup in my living room
So the obsession continued. I started to follow the Bruins, then added in the Penguins, the Hawks, and the Stars. Of course, I had to subscribe to NHL Game Center just to get all the games. 

I went to my first live game in January of 2015. Bruins versus Columbus. It was thrilling to be there, row ten behind Tuukka Rask, yelling at the players that I now knew the names of, hearing their skates scrap across the ice. I didn’t know where to focus so I’ll admit that I missed a lot of the game, just looking around, focusing on my favorite players (Bergeron and Marchand). Again, still hooked.

A few weeks later, I ended up going to a Pens Pittsburgh...see the next post for that ridiculousness. On the drive home, we decided that we needed to experience a home game at all the arenas...all thirty. Clearly we didn’t think this through in our enthusiasm, because I’m not sure if I’m up for Edmonton, Alberta or Winnipeg, Manitoba during the winter. Do they have hotel rooms in the arena so I don’t have to actually venture out into the Western Canadian winter?

The plan is to chronicle our visits on this blog, since it will take at least ten years to complete, and I want to remember as much of each visit as I can.

You’ll also find posts about hockey romance novels, along with maybe some hot hockey player pics. That might not be the entire reason I watch, but I’m not going to lie…it’s definitely part of the appeal.