It’s rare that hockey players answer questions in poetry, not prose.
But sometimes you get lucky. I asked Brooks Laich on Thursday to name the coolest place he’s ever visited that’s associated with hockey history. It could be anything – a rink, a bar reminiscent of Toe Blake’s Tavern, the place where Wayne Gretzky lost his baby teeth.
“The obvious answer would be the Hockey Hall of Fame, but I don’t want to use that – that’s too cliché,” Laich said.
So he thought about it, and he came up with this:
“If you go back to the childhood days, and if you go to some of the rinks that we went to where they’re -10, -15 degrees Celsius inside and guys are still playing, and the ice is terrible – it’s flooded with a tractor or a bucket of water on wheels, and they just hose it down and shovel it off – some of those places where hockey is still played, even though they don’t have the luxuries that we have here, I think those places are pretty neat.”
“So more the places where you play the game at its purest, as opposed to anything like a particular arena.”
“Yeah, the outdoor rinks back home that have bales [of hay] on them for boards. Kids shovel them off and play on them under the streetlights. I think that’s hockey at its purest level, the grassroots level. That’s people playing just for the joy of the sport.”
I wished I had a picture to run with this file of what Laich’s describing, but I believe OFB’s banner image gets pretty close to the heart of Laich’s words. That may be the closest we’ll get to capturing the moment visually for now.
Laich also said the last time he played outdoors was probably when he was 16 and playing in Tisdale, Saskatchewan, although he has gone to the National Gallery of Art’s outdoor rink off of Constitution Avenue here in D.C . for a skate. He’s excited for the outdoor Winter Classic but aware that, while some may compare it to those outdoor childhood shinny skates, it’s still an NHL game, and a heavily produced one at that.