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Guest Blog – Callum “Crushasaurus” McCarthy

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Howdy folks, still JB here.

For those of you who’ve been around Bourne’s Blog for awhile, you recall there was a day where I wasn’t writing for eleventy-nine websites and raking in hundreds of dollars a month doing it (oh, the glory).  No, all those doors opened because I got a couple breaks.  One, Chris Botta ran my piece about Bri and I on Islanders Point Blank, and two, Jason Kay agreed to let me contribute blogs to The Hockey News.  Sometimes writers just need to get in front of a few eyes.

Today’s guest blogger has also been featured on THN (and I believe has an internship planned there for next summer, Callum?), is a regular commenter on this blog, and is a general smartass.  Which I enjoy.

He’s 19 (and one-fifth)and lives in the UK.  That locale would make enjoying the NHL a little more difficult, one would think, so for your reading pleasure: His story about becoming a hockey fan, and getting into the sport as a writer.  You can check out his blog here and follow him on twitter.  You should also follow me on twitter.

**********************

My Love Affair With Hockey

-by Callum “Crushasaurus” McCarthy (Aged 19 and 1/5)

As a native resident of the United Kingdom, the way I take in hockey probably differs slightly from you guys over on the other side of the Atlantic. For a start, if Minnesota are playing Edmonton until 6am GMT, you can be sure I’ll be awake and watching until its conclusion. 

“Minnesota vs. Edmonton?!” I hear you cry, “But that’s visual torture!”

True. However, as the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and I guess that game would fall under something like “abundant, worthless but ultra shiny metal”. Something like that, yeah.

You see, treating hockey like treasure is a habit that has stuck since my mid teens, as up until the age of 14, I had never seen a live game of hockey in any format — be it in person or on television. Before then, my interest in the game had eminated from and survived solely on video games, and as such, my view of the hockey world was a little warped by the time it came to watching the real thing.

Here is a list of some things I thought about hockey when I was 13.

Here's Rico at the peak of his career.

  1. “Wow! Rico Fata is really amazing!”
  2. “Pronger’s name is funny.”
  3. “Haha! He said “STONED BY LUONGO”! LIKE A WOMAN IN ARABIA!”
  4. “The Washington Capitals are terrible, I should support them and get Dainius Zubrus on a jersey!”
  5. “The Dallas Stars must be like, the best team ever.”
  6. Seriously, it goes on forever and I’m done embarrassing myself for your entertainment.

When my family finally bought a sports package on cable, it came with the North American Sports Network, a channel that provided 200 live NHL games a year. Desperate to immerse myself into this new reality and expand my hockey knowledge further than player ratings and Bill Clement, I must have watched about 190 of them.

It wasn’t so much that the hockey was gripping me on a nightly basis, more the fact that the sport I had grown to love the most, I knew the least about. With so much to learn in a short space of time, my thirst for knowledge was insatiable. I’d routinely put myself through hell (Central Division hockey circa 2007) to learn stats, watch new players and expand my knowledge to a level that I felt proud of.

JB was on a lot of pain meds at the time

I decided to read hockey websites and blogs daily, including this one when it came into existence a couple of years ago (I came here looking for hockey analysis and instead found a picture of a kitten, a story about his grandfather’s soda and something about… PopeTube?). As geeky as this sounds, when a new post on The Hockey News came up, I was genuinely excited to read it. THAT’S how hungry I was for hockey knowledge. 

Naturally, as soon as I felt up to speed, I wrote a lengthy, poorly punctuated rant about how nobody likes hockey in the UK. Being a naïve son of a bitch, I fired this off to Edward Fraser, then web editor of The Hockey News. He  then proceeded to run it as a feature on THN.com.

“Booya!” I thought, “I’m freaking God at this hockey thing!”

Reading that piece back, it’s a good job I kept learning.

Even though now in the present day my knowledge is “good/getting better”, I’m still watching two games a night, still getting a maximum of 4 hours daylight a day and still reading everything I can to learn something that I didn’t know yesterday. Sure, the 5-8 hour time difference is a bit gruelling when you have things to do the next day, but it’s a sacrifice I’m now happy to make.

It wasn’t always that way though. I used to feel jealous of you guys living in North America — jealous of just how easy it is for you to immerse yourselves in the culture of hockey. I felt jealous of your normal sleeping patterns, of your normal social lives and of the fact you could go see it all happen live, if you wanted to. I hated having no one to talk to about it and I hated talking to my Dad about it even more – a man who once earnestly suggested that icing the puck “just to mix it up” would be a good idea.

But there was always one feeling that kept me watching, reading and enjoying — one that has only grown on me with every night of every season since 2005.

It was the feeling I got — and still get — at around 11:30pm when everyone had gone to bed. I have the house to myself, I’ve got my pizza in the oven and I’m more than ready to shack up on the sofa all night with a few beers and a night full of good games. 

Simplified, this feeling is known as “sheer, unadulterated excitement”, and I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

P.S. Actually that’s a flagrant lie, I’d happily swap it for an apartment in Toronto if any of you have one going on the cheap?

Comments

25 Responses to “Guest Blog – Callum “Crushasaurus” McCarthy”
  1. Derek says:

    I always enjoy hearing about people getting into hockey in other ways. I grew up in the game (not as much as JB, but my uncle played pro in Europe and my dad coached Junior B), and hockey has always been one of the most isgnificant parts of my life. It’s always great to find people who randomly came into hockey.

    Rico Fata makes me laugh. He played junior in my hometown and even as a kid I thought something was missing with him. He was fast as hell and could score in junior, but he never made the right decision and could just get by on his speed. As a kid I remember telling my friends he would suck in the NHL. Not to mention my buddy had his first game in the OHL, hit Fata from behind on his first shift, got beat up by John Erskine and tossed from the game. I don’t think he’s lived that one down yet.

    Even further off topic: John Erskine reminds me of the random guy who made it that Bourne was talking about the other day. He was the 5th or 6th defenseman on some pretty good London Knight teams and has had one of the best careers out of all of them.

  2. Mike says:

    Nice article man, and I can sympathize with your plight. I lived in London a couple times and was lucky enough to fall in with the London Devils hockey team. Great bunch of guys, check them out if you are in the London area. But it’s not easy being a hockey fan there and it used to be a lot harder! I remember the Dallas/Buffalo 3 overtime game 6 of the Stanley Cup final. What was that – ’99? Way before NASN. Lucky for me they carried the game on Channel 5. But half way into the third OT, they simply switched to their normal morning programming and my TV was perilously close to landing on the street. Adding to the injustice of it all was Brett Hull in the crease, but that’s a whole other story.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. kingofkenya says:

    Growing up in Pittsburgh, I’ve had a wonderful experience watching hockey on the West Coast for the past three years. Don’t stop at Toronto, take it all the way to BC. Having an entire night after your game is the most satisfying thing in the world, even with those 9 a.m. Sunday starts. Nice column, and nice on a fella to let you in.

  4. Matt the Aussie says:

    Sir, I know your pain.

    I counter your growing up in England with trying to follow hockey from Australia. BRUTAL! lol

    But I, too, had learned to live with constantly getting up early and watching highlights packages from the NHL website to get my fill. We didn’t ever get cable. But now, I’ve made the move over to Canada, and I couldn’t be happier! You should at least come out to visit this fine place sometime…

    Check out my latest blog if you like: http://aussiehoppy.blogspot.com/2010/10/weekly-preview-25102010.html

  5. Jeff says:

    Callum great peace. It really puts in perspective all of the things that most NA hockey fans/players take for granted. Like going to Major Junior, Pro and NHL games. Seeing 3 hours of commentary of it on tv each and every day (Canada only). And like you said nobody around you really gets the game, some of my favourite childhood memories (I’m 20 so maybe just memories) are skating on a backyard rink till midnight with friends or tournaments or bus trips with guys who you played with for 5-7 years with in minor hockey, I am now following you on twitter too.

  6. ms.conduct says:

    Nice job, Callum (oh please please can I call you Cal?). I’m always amazed by folks who have the dedication to follow NA hockey religiously in such inconvenient locales.

    But I can relate on the “OMG I must learn everything as fast as possible about this amazing thing” front having not really gotten into it until my early 30s. I guess the magic comes to you when you’re ready for it. :)

  7. crushasaurus says:

    Derek – I think Erskine is one of the most underrated shutdown guys in the league. He’s also a total monster back there — I’ll never forget the night he broke Milan Lucic’s nose in Boston last season.

    Mike – There’s no London team in existence at the moment. All of the Elite League franchises have moved up north. The most Southern team in that league now is the Nottingham Panthers, who get attendances the size of a good AHL gate. Milton Keynes are about 40 miles from me, but I could get more enjoyment out of watching a deer repeatedly fall over on a frozen lake.

    kingofkenya – At the moment, hockey is cutting a fair few nights out short. It’s like having The Situation go out with you every night and drag you home early every night.

    Matt the Aussie – You should speak to my friend Sasky Stewart. She’s a co-commissioner of your hockey league and knows your pain even more than I do.

    Jeff – Cheers buddy, it was difficult to surround myself with hockey early on, but once I knew where to look I could get my fix pretty easily. Twitter is a Godsend.

  8. TheOldeFirm says:

    There’s no such thing as an apartment on the cheap in TO. You might get luckier in the suburbs. I’d actually recommend moving out to the Left Coast, there are a few communities of British ex-pats around here (including an enclave in Tofino, many of whom reputedly have not even officially immigrated). Besides, could you really life with yourself, cheering for the Laffs?

  9. Jarick says:

    Great read, and great cat picture.

    Reminds me of how I got into hockey, I read everything online I could to figure out all the rules and what not, and then proceeded to memorize stats. Probably why I’m a stat geek.

  10. Neil says:

    Nice article, that was a good read! Nice work on the Rico Fata reference and mockery.
    You should move to Victoria, decent size, lots of young people, plenty of hockey, decent rent, close to Van city so you can watch the Canucks sometimes win, and close to Tofino (one of the 2-3 places in Canada worth surfing).

  11. Dunc says:

    Nice read, as a fellow Brit a lot of that strikes a chord, nothing quite like the joy of a HNIC double header with overtime when you have a ton of stuff to do first thing on a Sunday. The real fun of course is trying to explain why you’re tired to others “you were up all night for what?!”

  12. crushasaurus says:

    Ms. Conduct – There are only two people that call me Cal, and those people are my mother and my girlfriend. It’s a sickening combination if you think about it. I’d much rather you called me “Big Man” or “Thundercat”. Those are good.

    TheOldeFirm – I’d go watch the Marlies instead.

    Jarick – It’s a war that never ends. If my VAIO hadn’t have packed up this morning I could have shown you a picture of my bedroom wall, which is covered with NHL, AHL and CHL stats that I change weekly. I’m not entirely sure how I got the aforementioned girlfriend.

    Neil – Rico Fata had a 96 speed/accel rating from about 2003-2007. I just whacked him on the top line scored every breakaway. I think I made him score 60 one season, and as a result I was genuinely convinced he was an awesome hockey player.

    Dunc – You’re describing most conversations I have with my boss.

  13. liverning says:

    Great read Callum… Err Crusha… I too am a person that came late(ish) to hockey. Your catching hockey
    games plight reminds me of the time I came over to the UK to visit family. Only we planned it right in the middle
    of the SC Finals. I was sad to miss the games, but family is important (right?). Imagine my surprise when
    stumbling home one night/morning and being able to catch the game on the telly. Joy!!!

    By the way whats your favorite football team (football as in EPL, not NFL).

    Cheers!

    P.S. Kudos to JT.

  14. Great column kid. I love hearing stories about hockey loving fans from non-hockey markets. As for a cheap apartment in Toronto, there ain’t no such animal.

  15. TimmyHate says:

    Matt – I feel you pain – I live in new zealand and the first live ice hockey we got on tv was this years stanley cup

    Luckly for me I fell in love with a woman from tucson – so when ever we go over we catch a coyotes game or two.

  16. Puse says:

    Man, I thought I had it rough moving to LA for school after growing up in Toronto. I admire your dedication. Out of curiosity, do you have any recommendations for sports packages for NHL viewing in Ireland? I’m studying overseas next semester and there’s no way in hell I can get through it without a steady stream of hockey. Especially given that this may be the first time in years the Leafs actually have something to play for after November.

    As far as your big move to Canada, I miss Toronto every day. There is no place like it.

  17. Dunc says:

    Puse – Your best bet will probably be ESPN player which offers daily, monthly or yearly subscriptions for NHL. Not sure on the tv availability in Ireland but if you will have access to cable or satellite then you may be able to get ESPN America which is the new name for NASN mentioned in the column. Whichever, if you end up watching live welcome to the always tired world of the European NHL fan.

  18. Richie says:

    Puse : I can vouch for what Dunc says being a hockey fan in Ireland, ESPN America (formerly NASN) is the only way to watch live games (outside of internet streaming). I fell into hockey in the late 90′s after watching the World Championships (or was it World Cup of Hockey then?), Sean Burke was Team Canada’s No1 which sounds ridiculous now! Got into roller hockey as is was starting off in Cork, Ireland and am still playing bout 15 years later. If you’re interested in playing roller while you’re here there are clubs scattered about with varying levels of ability and organisation. http://www.inlinehockeyireland.org is a good place to start.

  19. the nick says:

    that comment under the fata pic slayed me. nice work.

  20. Matt the Aussie says:

    Timmy, they showed the Stanley Cup on NZ TV??? I bet you were as surprised as I am to hear that!

    I remember when I was growing up, I’d have to watch the Gillette World Sports Special each week, which was a 30 minute program showed at about 5am on a Saturday morning. That was the only place I could find any ice hockey highlights on Aussie TV.

    The show on at 5:30am? Thunderbirds! Awesome memories…

  21. Puse says:

    Dunc and Richie – thank you! I’ll definitely look into ESPN player (I assume that’s just online, right?) because I’m not certain about the cable and television situation yet. I guess I should just get use to taking power naps during the day so I can stay up for games, eh? I’ll be in Galway and will definitely look into roller hockey. I haven’t played ball hockey for years, but if I could find a league that’s a little more low key it would be fun to get back into it.

  22. Grizzly Adams says:

    Hi everybody, I too have a son who is obsessed with ice hockey, oops HOCKEY [I am forever being told] and he too stays up all the hours of the night watching ESPN to the point where the daytime is a passing illusion caused through a lack of sleep. Because of hockey, he is surgically attached to his computer and bed in equal measures, Well that’s not quite true, he takes the computer to bed with him so work out the ratios for yourselves. I must admit that I am astonished to say the least in the amount he has learnt about the game in so short a time from another continent. So much so that I have started watching through the night with him much to his chagrine and dismay as he is now being constantly interupted with such in depth questions like “Why is the ball flat?” and “What is the point in punching a man wearing a helmet?” I have now progressed to level two questions relating to the fact that the fighting is part of the game and that the players are allowed back onto the pitch – er, ice – after having been ordered off. And so it goes but I am learning bit by bit but the jargon and stats are beyond my ken as I am getting too old to learn new tricks to any great depth but the i…HOCKEY I do enjoy greatly to the point where I switched on British league hockey the other night and almost immediately switched off again. Not even a pale imitation. Keep writing Crusha and you never know where the sky is. I will certainly keep reading JB now that I have come across it and I may yet find out why the ball is flat.
    stay well
    Grizzly

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