Remember “The Emperor’s New Clothes?” It’s the fable about an emperor who is swindled to purchase a garment so opulent that only he can see it. Thus he walks through the streets in his underpants, leaving bystanders to convince themselves that they too were seeing something that wasn’t there.
I have a theory that ice hockey is the emperor’s new clothes of sports.
The other day I was eating out at a restaurant that had the St. Louis Blues game on a TV in the corner. I usually avoid having TVs in my line of vision at restaurants because my eyes instinctively drift towards them, but I didn’t have a choice this time.
I glanced up at the screen a few times to see a bunch of guys skating around and hitting each other, occasionally waving and batting their sticks at a puck that was allegedly on the ice…but here’s the thing: I have 20/20 vision, and I never actually saw a puck. In fact, in all the hockey games I’ve watched (not many), I’ve never seen the puck. That leads me to my theory.
There is no puck.
There is no puck. There never was, nor will there ever be. It’s all an elaborate ruse, and no one–not the players, the referees, the coaches, nor the fans–are willing to admit that there is no puck. No one wants to be the one to tell the emperor that he’s not wearing any clothes.
Look, I get it: You think you’ve seen the puck. And that’s totally cool with me. I mean, how embarrassing would it be to admit you’ve paid cash money to watch a sport where the central object of the sport isn’t even there?
I have to say this, though: I applaud the gusto with which hockey players pretend the puck is there. Every game is like a synchronized ice dance. Rarely do they break from character. It makes sense that most of the game takes place away from the “puck”–all the body slamming and fighting and subbing in and out–but the whole thing is incredibly well choreographed. Similar to WWE wresting, they’re fully committed to the ruse. Heck, they probably truly believe the puck is there.
From one naked emperor to another, my hat is off to you, hockey player. Keep chasing that puck. Maybe someday it will materialize out of thin air.