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Time to quit complaining and enjoy the game

Tuesday, 03.16.2010 / 9:56 AM / Columns

By Paul Kukla - NHL.com Correspondent

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Time to quit complaining and enjoy the game
A chance encounter with a stadium vendor helped one person re-discover his love of the game.
I once knew a hockey fan who would complain about everything associated with the game. It could have been something as small as the choice of music the arena decided to play, or something big, like a rule change that he felt would hurt his team.

Complain, complain, complain -- that's all this person did. The League had lost touch with the fans, the players are only playing for a paycheck, the owner doesn't care about winning as long as his pockets are being filled with cash.

Or about his team always being on the short end of a League decision. Maybe it was the schedule -- too many back-to-back games; while other teams seemed to be getting breaks, his team seemed to be always traveling.

Then his attention would turn to the referees. Bad calls -- his team would always get a call against them in the most inopportune time. The team lost because of a bad call, or that ref, he hated the team and would surely be calling something out of the blue just to spite the team.

It always was something and always negative. Then one day this fan realized he did not enjoy the game. The game he grew up with was turning him into a bitter person. His whole life soon was a reflection of his negative attitude toward the game he once loved.

Then I changed -- yes, it was me who had an eye-opening experience. Believe it or not, it was a hot dog vendor who changed my attitude toward the game, and life in general. This guy, with his big tub of hot dogs strapped around his neck, changed my attitude toward the game and I haven't looked back since that moment.

You could see the hot dog guy was struggling while trying to sell his hot dogs as quickly as possible. Maybe it was the sweat pouring off his forehead, maybe it was his facial expression as he tried to navigate the very steep steps at the old Olympia in Detroit. It possibly could have been the grimace on his face as he screamed, "Hot dogs, get your hot dogs here, yummy, yummy, good for the tummy."

Even though that experience happened over 40 years ago, I never will forget those words. At the time it happened, I thought to myself, this guy is trying to make a living. Perhaps he had children to be feed, or possibly it was a second job and he needed the money to pay his rent or mortgage.

I vowed to myself from that day forward that I would enjoy this game of hockey again, and grow with it instead of fight against it.

In the instant-update world we now live in, everyone seems to have an opinion on decisions made by others. Some will turn to the written words, trying to get their point across, over and over. Others will use the radio as their soapbox, screaming and yelling until they no longer can speak. Then they come back the next day with the same opinion, still screaming and yelling.

I get it, you are not happy with a decision(s) that was just made. But it is time to stop and start enjoying the game again. You don't want to lose your focus like I did. You may not be as lucky as I was when I discovered I was always complaining about a game I loved but once was sour because of it.

As always, feel free to email me at pk@kuklaskorner.com or follow me on Twitter.


Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday