Lent Project Day 20: Labels

Photo by C Technical. A closeup of the blade of a hockey skate, covered with snow.

The Casa di Swears is a Hockey House. My gentleman associate played as a youth and as an adult, Child played, and now plays shinny sometimes, and if he ever actually makes it back to RMC, he might even use it as his intramural. Even I had an ill-advised few games in a women’s league. If you knew what a poor skater I am, you’d surely doubt this last fun-fact, but it’s true. But my friend (who played as a girl) wanted to go and didn’t wan to go herself, so I had to go too. Srsly, the things our friends can rope us into… honestly.

We watch hockey all winter from our nephew’s and nieces’ minor hockey games, Kitchener Rangers Junior A, the IIHC World Juniors, the NHL games in the local feed, the Winter Classic(s). We like hockey. Like, a LOT. This year is a strange season with literally empty arenas, but the game goes on, and we watch.

Because there’s no fans in the stands to help feed energy back to the players on the ice, there’s been an increase in the number of fights as players try to create energy a different way.

That said, it’s always interesting to me that hockey goons are more often described by the decidedly more innocuous role of “enforcer”. There’s certainly a more positive spin on that. These players respond to the poor manners of other (opposing) players, engage in their own aggressive (read: dirty) plays, and as warranted, drop the gloves and dance.

I complain about once a fortnight about how my high school’s guidance counsellors were falling down on the job as far as the scotch-taster, butterfly-farmer, devil’s-advocate careers go. And randomly, every year or so, I have a fleeting (if intense) desire to quit the world of high-tech to go stack tomatoes in a market. But as far as careers go, I feel like when one of the success criteria for your performance is “willing to get punched in the face by someone with a 6 foot wingspan several times a week”, maybe you’ve made some questionable decisions in your life, regardless of how many zeroes are on your weekly paycheck. Or maybe, it’s something else. Either way, these players end up having their whole set of professional hockey skills distilled down to one thing: Enforcer. 

When Child was still playing defense (he switched to forward in his last few years), he would stand in front of the goalie and chirp at the opposing player trying to get in the crease. He’d literally lean in and push someone away from his goalie. A few goalie moms said to me that they’d gladly have my kid protecting theirs. So maybe, in an alternate universe, Child would have become an enforcer, too. Maybe, in his “contactless” league, he already was. I guess it depends on whether he was defending you or he was leaning his shoulder (or the knob of his stick) into you.

Victor Hugo captured the folly of making that narrow-sighted assumption of a person’s worth based on one noun in Les Miserables. Jean Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. He was sentenced to 20 years of hard labour, but he was hunted as a thief for his whole life. Because criminals don’t change their stripes. And we shake our theatre-going heads at Javert. Oh, silly Javert, can’t you see the good in his heart?

Yet, we continue to apply a single label like it’s the whole definition of a person – like someone with these labels can’t be anything else. A criminal. An B-student. A Catholic. A wife. A bully, A senior citizen. An enforcer.

This Lent, may I make a better effort to not give people a single definition. May I be savvy enough to know that we’re all more than what we DO.

Extra Credit:

I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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