Blue suede skates

Instead of calling myself a one-track mind, I just say that I’m focused. I’m very, very focused. I’m goal-oriented, I’m dedicated.

But between you and me? Yeah, I am a hockey nerd.

I am in the photo.

But, I’m a nerd with an asterisk. You know, in the new, cool sense of the word “nerd”.

Somehow, I think it’s OK to be a hockey nerd even if – I am sure – there are those who consider such a description an oxymoron. Those people probably focus too much on the latter parts of those words. Nerd. Moron.

The asterisk is there to prove that I still have that hockey machoism in me. I’m not a wimp with an asterisk. I’m a hip hockey, krhm, nerd, kind of like I was in 1984 when I secretly purchased a copy of Wham’s “Make It Big” album, and listened to it at home after school until I knew all the songs by heart. And when I made the mistake of leaving it somewhere wide open for a friend of mine to see, I was quick to point out that there was vomit on the album cover.

That was another favor I owed our dog.

That was the same dog that had the privilege to be my confidante when I got my first real pair of skates (CCM Marksman) for Xmas many years ago. Stunned by sheer joy, and the happiness looking for an outlet, I grabbed him by the neck, and whispered my good news into his ear. Real CCMs. Real hockey skates.

These days, it’s OK to be a hockey nerd. To rattle off stats from the NHL, to know the third and fourth-liners in the AHL, ECHL, and in the deepest Russia. It’s a badge of honor to know the entire NHL schedule by heart – because you have studied it the day it was announced. In the middle of the summer. “Oh, oh, get this: the Flames have a 11-game road trip in January, the longest since… and then, Crosby will be in Montreal on… “

The technical term for that condition is “insane”.

Still, that’s almost understandable. It’s still got something to do with the game, with getting ready for the new season and it’s directly linked to the game.

That said, there’s no way around it. For hockey nerds, the game cuts through their entire lives, on every level. Like this:

Two weeks ago I was driving to the airport when I got stuck to the Stockholm morning rush hour. Right in front of me is a car with the license plate WCH-224. Yes, depending on where you’re from, you probably react to the style of plates we have here. That’s the system. Three letters, followed by three numbers (although you can have vanity plates, too).

I saw “World Cup of Hockey”.

A little further down the road, having passed the World Cup of Hockey, I got stuck behind a red Toyota with the license plate CBJ-something. I forget the numbers because I was stuck in traffic and the blood didn’t go all the way to my brain and all I could do was think of the Columbus Bluejackets.

Later on the same day, having picked up my father at the airport, we had lunch in a nice Stockholm lunch restaurant where you make your order at the counter, get a number, and then the waiters will bring your food. Our number: 99.

I suppose that doesn’t even need to be explained.

I don’t use socks because 25 years ago I read somewhere that Paul Coffey didn’t wear socks in his skates, to fit his feet into all-too-small skates for better feel. Soon enough I stopped wearing socks in my shoes.

For my cell phone, I chose the number to end with 1317, and I never say just one-three-one-seven, always thirteen-seventeen, because even if other people don’t know, my phone number actually ends in “Mikhailov – Kharlamov”. That’s for Finland. My Swedish number ends in “Kharlamov – Mikhailov”.

Last week, at the Champions Hockey League final, I was celebrating the hockey fest by wearing a nice shirt and a tie. But still keeping it real, by wearing jeans, and a Koho belt that once kept my hockey pants up.

Call it what you want. You can call me a hockey nerd and whisper the hockey part, if you want to, I don’t care. I will smile at your thinking of me as a one-track mind. You can turn your nose up at my (quite impressive) collection of hockey hats, or think that I’m crazy for not wearing socks.

Or you can join me. Come on. You know you want to.

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