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Cheering together, apart

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The NHL is playing in August. Jody Vance was skeptical, but now she’s all in. Here’s why.

“This might sound weird,” said my son to me during a recent game, “but seeing hockey on TV makes me feel better.”

A typical parent, I prodded: “tell me more.” He’s a preteen, so answered: “that’s all; just do.”

I also feel a little better for the distraction of the NHL playoffs. Truth be told, I was not sold when the “bubble” was first floated, but here I am: I was wrong.

When we’re all hungry for a reason to cheer, it’s pretty great to have the distraction of hockey.

Full kudos to all involved in pandemic planning. Into the third week back, 5,640 total tests on the clubs 52-member travelling parties later, there are ZERO positive cases. That is impressive.

Even if your team isn’t playing, or trying to stay in it, having hockey on TV feels better. The qualifying portion of the tournament felt like a novelty for some, but for others it was a feast. So many games, all day every day, gives a similar feel to the Olympics. (Tokyo 2020 should be on right now, ironically). There’s something special when you can pop on the TV at any time and be spellbound by sport. World Cup, Olympics, and now, COVID NHL.

The game experience is remarkably well-thought out. The TV presentation is slick and thoughtful, with mainstays in the right roles (looking at you Chris Cuthbert), but the NHL’s extra touches are next level.

We didn’t know we needed seats covered to be mesmerized by the on-ice action rather than the emptiness of the arenas. Who knew that kitschy crowd “pumping” music, used to make live crowds cheer at the right time, would bring welcome familiarity to the viewing experience?

The flashing lights that mimic fans jumping from their seats when a goal is scored, the Jumbotron with funny memes – whoever had these ideas deserves a massive raise.

It’s not perfect. Just ask Tuukka Rask and his decision to return to his family, be with his wife and three kids (one newborn). Rask didn’t like the emptiness of the arena and said it all felt like exhibition hockey. And that’s understandable. But for millions of Canadians it is not.

This is all weird. But it’s also important to think of those who hold so tightly to sport. My lifelong hero is Hall of Fame Broadcaster Jim Robson. I think of Jim giving “a special hello to all the hospital patients and shut-ins, those of you who can’t make it out to the game.”

Now, more than ever let’s think of them. Those tuning in from a long-term care home, or quarantining in isolation. Because we all need to embrace any and all things that bring us joy.

Right now, that’s hockey. The NHL has made this fan (and former cynical sports broadcaster) happy, at a time when that emotion is fleeting.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

SWIM ON:

SWIM ON