One of the reasons I’m so excited so far in advance of the Sabres first game is that the preseason is genuinely one of my favorite parts of the year. I absolutely adore wandering downtown to catch a practice or a scrimmage.
I love the odd quietness of the arena, and how you can hear the sound of the skates swirling on the ice, and Lindy barking orders. The stillness (compared to game nights) makes me feel like I’ve entered some sort of bizarre hockey-themed library. It seems appropriate to speak in hushed tones, unless someone says something funny, then it’s satisfying to hear a solid laugh echo across the arena. The sounds of a hockey practice are mesmerizing. I love trying to decipher the complicated drills, but my favorite thing is when they skate around the rink in giant circles, like it’s 1981 and they’re at the roller rink. Preseason practices are incredibly relaxing.
I love how the players seem to project an air of boyish excitement during preseason practices. I might be making this one up because it’s what I want to see, but it makes sense that young men being paid millions to play a game would experience a small giddy rush each year when they return to work. It’s fun to see them joking around on the ice, happy and hopeful about the season to come. It makes them seem more like us. The preseason is a fun time. Hopes are high, and nothing bad has happened yet.
I love how it’s all free. Lord knows I’m willing to dole out the bucks when it comes to the Sabres, but it’s an indulgence that often makes me feel a little guilty. The “come one, come all” atmosphere of mid-September practices helps them to feel somehow more innocent, and therefore more special. I like preseason hockey practices because I think they’re something my (cheeeeap) father would have brought us to when we were kids. He was an expert at finding inexpensive ways to keep us active and interested. It makes me happy to think that parents who might otherwise might not get to bring their kids to the arena have the opportunity to sit their family right up against the glass. It’s refreshing, and it’s nice.
I love how I see a lot of friends at preseason practices. Blogging about the Sabres has put me in contact with a lot of awesome people, and I love how when I wander into the arena on a random Thursday morning, I’m likely to see someone I know. Hell, the first time I met Heather (Heather B! One of my BFFs!) was at a preseason practice. We spent the entire practice pretending to shout orders at the players through imaginary megaphones. Last year I went to a scrimmage with my friend Laura and we spent the whole time watching her then one-and-a-half-year-old son toddle charmingly up and down the rows of empty seats. These are arena memories that I cherish, I think in part because they are so far removed from the mania of a regular season game.
Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is that I love preseason hockey. And you know what? It starts in eighteen days. Which is practically tomorrow.