I’ve never cared for the terminology; calling it a “game.” The word “game” implies that there’s no “work” involved. Actually, it’s all work and it starts early. I’d imagine that the story is the same for every NHLer out there. It started with your folks, fast asleep until the rude buzz of the alarm urged them to rise and drag your butt from your warm bed for your zero dark thirty drive to the rink. And it was work to get you to down the banana and half a cherry pop tart so you’ll have a little sugary energy for the morning skate. Maybe it didn’t start in a rink though, maybe the work started on your neighborhood pond; the first ice of the season groaning and clicking beneath your blades. And today, you got there early because today you felt like flying instead of kicking back to watch Scooby Doo cartoons.           And the work continued, throughout your young life-every time you hit the squat rack instead of seeing the latest movie with your girl, every time you were bent over throwing up in a trash can, not because of a great night out, but because you just worked your ass off on the ice. Every time you took a long boring bus ride to that cold smelly rink in a podunk town. I could go on and on but I won’t. You get it-there’s work, there’s sacrifice…for you, for your parents and for your brother who never got to fulfill his dream of playing the oboe because all the money went to buying your custom goalie helmet.

     Cut to today and we’re arguing over the value of a life spent on the ice. So let’s all agree that teachers and firefighters and nurses should be paid more, that’s a given. And now let’s think about the guy who cleaned the crap out of my septic tank last week. Doesn’t he have the crappiest job out there? He doesn’t have anyone negotiating for his pay raise. Shouldn’t he be paid millions of dollars?

     Do you know when we’d pay him a million dollars? Just before the septic tank backs up and all that crap is in your house. That’s when I need him. That’s when I want him. That’s when I would pay him every last cent in my bank account…hell, I’d gnaw off my right arm and hand it to him if only he’d promise to pump my tank the moment before the stuff hits the fan.

     So what's the value of the men in the “game.” If you’re a Coyotes fan, let’s take our hot tub time machine back to a cold day in January Twenty Twelve. You’re sitting in your eighty five dollar seat, there’s moments left in the game and the Doaner is two goals in, working on his first NHL career hat trick. No, scratch that….think back…you’re not sitting in that eighty five dollar seat, you’re standing. And you’ve been standing for the last five minutes, fists clenched and then raised, your head snapped back, your eyes staring at the arena ceiling, your mouth yelling, “no!” because the puck went just wide and you’re wondering not about the cure for cancer or the price of gas or the potential for a septic back up. You’re wondering if Doaner is going to get that goal. And Doaner’s got a lot on his mind too. He’s thinking about his legs ‘cause they’re spent. And there’s only one word in his mind and that word is “work.” He’s telling his legs to work. He’s bargaining with them, “Just a little more work,” he tells them. “Work a little harder and then we’ll rest,” he says. Work…work…work…work…it’s running through his mind like a record stuck.  And Whitney’s thinking too. He’s looking for one more chance to thread the needle. He’s thinking about a hole opening up, he’s scanning for a lane, he’s working towards that moment…that delicious second when he can release that puck and get it to Doan. And you’re in the stands, you’re yelling, and the people at home are yelling, and the hot dog guy is yelling, and the announcers are yelling and everyone is yelling…. And then your eyes are focused on the ice…, the clock, the puck, Whitney, Doan, the ice, the clock, the puck, the blue line, the clock, the puck, Ray, the release, the catch, the clock, the wrist, the snap, the lane, the clock, the moment, the work, the gooooaaaallll! And everyone around you is screaming and your buddy is crying and your beer is spilt at your feet and you don’t care and he did it, he did it, he did it, he did it…and suddenly Todd Walsh is shoving a microphone in your face and he’s asking you, “Did you want that goal, did you need that goal?” and you reply, shouting, “yes, yes, yes!” and in that second you know, if you could gnaw your right arm off and hand it to Todd to give to the players to thank them for giving you that delicious goal, you would.

     So next time you see Shane Doan, take a good look at his nose. That nasty looking nose, that goes East-West instead of North-South…the nose that desperately sucked in the air that fed the oxygen into his legs that made those legs work to get him into position to get that goal for you…you know that nose looks like that for you. For your entertainment. And that’s why we pay…because they “play.”

           Now go make an appointment to get your septic tank pumped.