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Blackhawks Wed Feb 23 2011

The Transplanted Southerner or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hockey

hawks united center.PNG

United Center photo by Richie Diesterheft

I remember when Sarah Palin first started talking about the difference between hockey moms and pitbulls. (Lipstick.) I also remember wondering what the hell she was talking about.

Not that this is a strange reaction to anything that comes out of that woman's mouth, but this time it was for a different reason entirely. I was thinking something along the lines of "Oh that is just so Northern of her."

Growing up in Kentucky, hockey was always something I associated with frozen tundra, maple syrup and horrible, flat accents.

Obviously, my feelings since have changed. Now, I love hockey. I really, really do. Nothing gets my engines going more than a really solid hit or seeing the Blackhawks kill a power play. But I must confess, it's only been my man-on-the-side for the past three years.

Don't blame me! Blame the South!

I grew up about twenty miles outside of Louisville, Kentucky, in a land of sprawling horse farms lined with wooden fences. Where I come from, it's all about horse racing, bourbon and college hoops.

I'm fortunate my family wasn't just into basketball. I've been in love with sports for as long as I can remember. I watch every single Kentucky Derby, idolized Peyton Manning because he played for the University of Tennessee (my first love) and cried when Denny Crum retired.

But hockey just wasn't something anyone in Kentucky ever watched -- a fact I painfully remembered last summer when I was back home and had to watch the first few NHL playoff games online. While the NHL has teams in Nashville, Atlanta and Miami, their local importance pales in comparison to college and even high school football.

Now, I'm certainly not the official spokesperson for life south of Indiana, nor do I have a degree in the sociology of sports, but I don't think this Southern neglect of hockey will ever change.

In a region that shuts down for a half-inch of snow, it's hard to fall in love with a sport played on ice. I wore gloves and a scarf to my first Hawks game because I assumed the United Center had to be an icebox. (These later came in handy for beer-holding, but that's a different story.)

Unfortunately, I don't see hockey's place in the South changing any time. Even worse, I will at some point have another thing in common with Sarah Palin: I too will be a hockey mom.

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CeeAngi / February 24, 2011 9:27 AM

Very cool, Sarah.

I also grew up in the south... Georgia (before the Trashers came to Atlanta) then Louisville.

In the land of SEC football, and then a great rivalry for all sports non-hockey in Kentucky, it's easy to neglect hockey.

I'm glad it's a growing sport in the southern states now, as it's definitely one of the more entertaining (and elegant) sports around... and nice that you've seen the light in the same way I have.

I remember watching games on television when I lived down south (seems like it was always an Avs game, but they were good back then) and thinking it was interesting, but unrelatable. Now here in Chicago, it's the sport I watch more than any other.

Mike D / February 28, 2011 12:43 PM

I shall return the favor and try to watch NASCAR.

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