When I moved to Toronto in the fall of 2006, I was 17 years old. I’d grown up in suburban Calgary, independent to some degree but far enough away from things that my parents would often have to drive me to the C-Train station. Calgary was familiar; I spent most of my time doing the same things in the same neighbourhoods, and I never really thought anything of it.
Toronto was uncharted territory. It was new and exciting and wildly confusing, and I spent a lot of time poring over transit maps and riding the subway to figure out what was going on. My first TTC Ride Guide had all kinds of markings and annotations and addresses scrawled on it, and it wasn’t until it started disintegrating at the seams that I reluctantly picked up a fresh one. I used it every day and got to know the city intimately, soon able to plot my routes anywhere with barely a glance at the colourful, spidery transit lines.
Whenever I’d go back to Calgary, though, it was usually the same old. I was back in familiar territory and going to familiar locales. Most of the exploration stayed east.
It wasn’t until I started talking to some friends from other cities who had moved to Calgary later, for school or work, that I realized how little I’d been doing there. They knew that city inside and out, all the little hidden gems and holes-in-the-wall and new interesting establishments that I had never heard of. Being away from a city for years will do that, but so will not doing much while you’re there. It was mildly embarrassing—here was a city I’d spent my formative years living in, and friends who’d lived there for a year knew it better than I did. And I, somehow, knew Toronto better than a large handful of city natives I’d met in town.
The return of NHL hockey is making me feel like this, too. This is a baseball blog, supposedly, but I’m a hockey fan first, and was long before I paid attention to much else; when the Calgary Flames won their Stanley Cup I was something like 73 days old, and I’m quite sure I was yelling when it happened.
But I’ve taken hockey for granted. Hockey’s my familiar old home, the thing I’m so used to that it only makes itself known when one of us leaves. When I turn on the Flames game, Jarome Iginla’s still there doing the same things he’s been doing for 17 years. The fluidity and motion and sounds of the game are the same ones I’ve been used to hearing all this time.
Looking back at it through the lens of baseball, though, is a completely different story. I threw myself into baseball with all the energy I had, because I came into it so late it felt like I had to sprint to catch up. Now it feels really weird (and kind of wrong, almost) that I’m so comfortable with having a very detailed conversation about it while I still have to hack my way through talking about hockey. Before baseball I didn’t spend much time thinking about the role of statistics or analysis in sport, and I certainly didn’t pay much attention to the numbers.
Now, though, I’m happy to be discontent with my hockey knowledge—I’m learning. The hockey enthusiasts I’m surrounded by are reminding me how much more there is for me to gain. I’m back to trying to understand what charts and data samples are trying to tell me, and trying to watch games and plays with a more critical eye. It’s already made a difference (although it’s really hard to learn things when you’re watching the World Juniors at three o’clock in the morning under blankets), and now the NHL is improbably, and belatedly, back.
I really missed you guys.
Let’s do this again—with feeling.