The “It” of Hockey

Celebrating the unique, yet hard to qualify sense of self that belongs singularly to a hockey player and a hockey family.


Hockey has an it. That unnamed intangible escaping description. You feel its existence in the locker room, you breathe its air on the ice, you hear its words on the bench, and you speak its language with other citizens of hockey.

It separates us from them. From the bag we carry to the equipment contained within, to the time of day we rise for the privilege to play.

But we do not merely play hockey as much as we belong to hockey and hockey belongs to us. A mutual possession that affirms the standing of the owners.

Like an ethnicity, hockey has a culture that defines its people. No better or worse necessarily, but a breed apart. That difference is an identity we recognize in each other and innately know in whom it does not reside.

We are proud of it. We hold our heads higher because of it, but we are also humbled by it.

Who has it? 

The dad outside on a subzero night spraying the backyard rink with a hose he defrosts in the shower.

The child that sleeps in their equipment to save a step at 5:00am the next morning.

The unpaid coach watching instructional videos instead of going to bed in order to improve his players’ abilities.

The parent working the concession stand to offset the cost of their child’s passion.

The teenager who cleans the locker rooms for extra ice time.

It comes from frozen tears on your cheek; from the smell of your gloves; from an entrance to a pro shop; from steel on ice instead of rubber on turf; from all that belongs solely to hockey.

Norman Maclean wrote that “all good things came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.”

Though played by modern warriors hockey has a grace we seek to achieve as artists of the game. All that uniquely encompasses this pursuit is the it we recognize in ourselves and in others. That is the separation we feel. The elevation we respect.

In every rink and on every frozen pond we skate with hockey’s living history where it resides among the keepers for us to one day join.

But it has to start somewhere so why not here with you, whoever you are and wherever the sheet of ice may be?

A new season is upon us and the pursuit of grace begins again.

Hockey has an “it”.

Jason Sulham

Jason Sulham

Born in Vermont, I started skating at age 4 on the lake and was lacing it up for the mite team the next year. At age 6, and much to my father's dismay - a Bruins fan from Worcestor, MA - I received a pair of hand me down Canadien PJs that sealed my fate as life long Habs fan. I'm OK with it. My work in politics and public affairs brought me to Raleigh, NC where I currently live with my wife, herself a hockey player from Lake Placid, and our son. My essays have been featured in Carolina Hockey Magazine and publish my own web magazine, After years of writing for other people, I am excited to be writing for myself on The Hockey Writers about a game I love and that has so much to do with who I am. Follow me @JasonSulham
Jason Sulham

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