February 01 2010 11:38PM
We are living in the age of what I will dub the scientism of hockey. And like any view which has an authority over all other interpretations of some area of life, it is bound to generate its own apostles, produce its own soldiers. These are the majority of hockey players today. The hockey soldier of science is a player who is dominated by a duty to do everything according to the book, for the benefit of others, coach and team included. He is all about what he understands as pure substance. It doesn’t matter how ugly it looks, as long as it gets the job done. Practicality, efficiency and instrumentality dominate his game. He will not make that extra pass, he won’t cheat on his defensive coverage, he won’t slow up or turn away on his forechecks, and he won’t stay out too long. He is an all-around-player whose game is governed by virtues like temperance and moderation. Nothing in excess, nothing out of place. For him, the best line between any two points on the ice is invariably a straight one.
But even in this age of hockey scientism, we have our heretics. This is a player who values style and form over substance and content. It is a player who realizes the anti-utilitarian aesthetics of sport: that a good shot is not always one accompanied by a flashing red light, or that a great pass is not always one that lands or ends perfectly for the recipient. For him, it is not so much the end-product that matters, but aspects of skill in and of themselves. What matters is how he plays the game, how he manifests and gives full expression to his creativity through his action and movements. For the heretic, the best line between any two points on the ice is invariably indeterminate.
What’s the point of all this, you might ask? Well, it is this. A combination of these two types of players in one individual is a very rare thing, but Canuck viewers are lucky enough to be witnessing exactly this sort of almalgamation, this unusual marriage between substance and style, form and content. It is a fusion embodied by the Sedin twins.
There is no greater example of this than the game last Saturday against the Leafs. In one period the Sedins were both goal producers, instrumental in the comeback, and highlight reel machines. During those last twenty minutes of play they were both efficacious and yet also highly creative and stylistic, throwing around passes most of us would pay to see again even knowing full well that no goals will have been produced.