I wrote this a few years ago in response to the question "What are the perennial and quintessential Catholic sports?" With the NHL strike nearly over, it seems timely and almost instructive, but not quite.
What are the perennial and quintessential Catholic sports?
Hockey is one of very few sports which is wholly inconsistent with hell. In such warm climes there can be no ice on which to play, and therefore no hockey. Hockey is played in a comfortably cool environment, much more compatible with heaven.
Hockey is full of rich symbolism, and of a triune nature. A game, one single event, is made up of three distinct periods of play. A hat trick is a single achievement; a whole made up equally of three individual goals.
Let us consider dress and proper roles. In baseball, the coach is dressed like the players, and indistinguishable from them. Thus baseball blurs the line between the coach and players in a most Protestant manner. Hockey is much more Catholic in the way respect is shown to the dress indicated by office. A coach dresses differently from his players and in this way the line between hierarchical coach and lay player is always clear.
Hockey intimates the concept of purgatory. In most sports, a player guilty of an offense is thrown out of the game. Only in hockey may a transgression be atoned for. The penalty box foreshadows the reality of purgatory. The player in the box has not been ejected from the game, and he has hope. He knows his punishment is temporary, but he can do nothing to speed it and must wait.
Purists know that the new, modern arenas lack all the character of older rinks. The familiar sights and sounds have been replaced with cheap showiness. They look back fondly to the time when the league included only six teams. They know that recent attempts to popularize the game have been well intentioned, but have served largely to cheapen it and diminish quality of play.
And there are fist fights. Truly hockey is the quintessential Catholic sport!