Something strange happened to me recently: I looked up from my ereader and found I’d fallen down a sub-genre rabbit hole and was suddenly immersed in hockey romance.
It was strange because I know next to nothing about hockey. In fact, I went on a date to an NHL game once, and my lack of hockey knowledge caused more than a little friction. (That guy was also still in love with his college girlfriend, so the hockey was the least of our problems. They’re happily married now. But I digress.)
For some reason, reading so much about hockey, the players, and their relationships, lives, and loved ones has made me feel invested in the sport in a way I’ve never felt before. So, I’ve done what any curious person would do and decided to take the knowledge I’ve collected from romance novels and apply it to real life. In other words, I’ve decided to become a fan of non-fiction hockey.
Luckily, my timing has been fortuitous: the Seattle Kraken, the local NHL team, has earned their way into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The team is an expansion team, and as they’re in only their second season, they’re the newest team in the NHL. So good for them, making the playoffs!
Armed with nearly a dozen books worth of romance-adjacent hockey knowledge, I’ve decided to test my knowledge in real time and watch the Kraken’s first ever playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. The game is in Colorado, but according to a pregame analyst, most of the Kraken’s 46 wins and 100 points over the season were earned on the road. (Is that a lot of wins and points? I have no idea. But the professional hockey person talking about it seemed impressed, so probably?!)
And now it’s time to grab your bedazzled jersey and a glass of arena caliber chardonnay. Let yourself get carried away by the swelling music, the cheering of the fans, and the many ads for cell service carriers surrounding the ice. It’s game time!
I have learned in my reading that hockey is divided into thirds, and each third is called a “period.” (I have not learned in my reading why they’re called “periods” and not “thirds,” which would make vastly more sense.)
18:43 remaining in the first period – OHHHH!! We’ve just learned that the Kraken goalie used to play for Colorado!! I wonder if he moved because he fell in love with someone on the Seattle team or possibly in the Seattle area.* I am guessing this is likely, because there seem to be very few other reasons why someone would switch to a new team (unless someone is trying to launch a spin off romance series, which is also a possibility).
17:54 – I notice the two blue lines on the ice. I don’t know remember what they’re for, but if I remember correctly, they’re kind of a big deal when it comes to the “rules” of hockey. There are also some red circles with red dots in them on the ice. And a Chipotle logo, but I don’t think that’s technically related to the hockey.
16:34 – GOOOOOAAALL. Or wait, maybe it’s just a SCOOOORE? Are goals only a soccer thing? One of the books I read was about a soccer player and a hockey player (damn you, Chloe Liese!!**), so I don’t remember if the terminology is different.
Still 16:34 – No, we’re good! The graphics indicate that it is in fact a GOOOOOAALLL!!!!
9:36 – Oh, a power play for the Kraken!! That means that one of the Colorado players got a penalty and is in timeout, so the Avalanche are down a player for two minutes. Having more people in the game is generally considered a benefit and makes you more powerful, so that’s why it’s called a power play. I think.
7:25 – The Avalanche score. Whatever. This is almost certainly to set up dramatic tension and keep us invested in the game, so I’m not worried.
3:05 – Another Seattle power play!! And it’s THE SAME GUY from the Avalanche who was in the penalty box last time! People think he’s just playing kind of an aggressive game, but I’m guessing that this has very little to do with the game and that he’s actually frustrated and distracted by a fight he had with his significant other a few hours before the game. As far as I can tell, that kind of dark moment is often a main contributing factor to this kind of a thing. (Don’t worry. I think they’ll get their HEA one way or another.)
End of the first period! Time for the first intermission! (It’s so classy that they call it an “intermission.” It’s like being at a very long and violent play.)
*To be clear, I know truly nothing about any of these people aside from the fact that they seem to play professional hockey. If you offered me one million dollars, I could not name any of them. The only physical description I could offer you for any of them is “banged up white guy.” They are merely pawns in ice skates upon whom I am projecting my romance-fostered notions of professional hockey players.
**The hockey — and soccer — books in Chloe Liese’s Bergman Brothers series are actually very good.
18:40 – Kraken score!!! They’re coming off that intermission strong. This is likely the result of a behind the scenes motivational speech by the coach, reminding the players of all the adversity they had overcome to get here tonight, and also something about love of the game and teammates being family, we win or lose together, etc., etc.
17:24 – High sticking penalty on a Kraken! Now the Avalanche have a power play and one of our sea monsters is sitting alone in a little box with nothing but his feelings and regrets to keep him company. This is a road game, so if I had to guess, he’s thinking about how much he’s missing the second-grade teacher he met at a community event and fell for even though she just got out of a long term relationship and really isn’t his type. Besides, he’s not ready to get tied down…or is he? Maybe he could be the guy she deserves if he could stop just assuming he’s going to follow in the footsteps of his absentee father and just figure out how to — Never mind! Two minutes is up. Time for hockey again!
9:00 – The net got knocked away from net place where it’s supposed to be! Is that supposed to happen??
Still 9:00 – Ok, it turns out that net thing happened because of hooking penalty (on Seattle) that caused some people to crash into each other and knock the net off of its pegs. I don’t really know what “hooking” is, but based on what I saw, it’s almost certainly not any of the really dirty stuff you and I are both thinking it could be. Which is a real shame, because the hockey to sex ratio in this game is very different from every fictional hockey experience I’ve read about thus far.
2:15 – The Seattle goalie has 12 saves this period! I bet the love of his life that he (probably) moved to Seattle for is super proud of him right now. Theirs is just (probably) a really lovely story.
End of the second period!!! The slogan of the Kraken seems to be “Fear the Deep.” It might be that second glass of wine, but I kinda like it.
By the way, these intermissions feel pretty long, so I did a little research. Seattle’s team is called the Kraken because of the city’s maritime history, the Scandinavian folklore around the kraken, and the giant Pacific octopus that’s found in the Puget Sound. Plus, Jerry Bruckheimer, who was a driving force behind the Pirates of the Caribbean series, is one of the Kraken owners, so that probably didn’t hurt.
But enough about that. The third and final period begins!!!
19:54 – We get a shot of the Colorado coach. He looks intense and a little distressed. This is either because his team is losing 2/3 of the way through the game or possibly because he is in love with the coach of the opposing team. Both of these possibilities seem equally likely.
15:57 – The Kraken score again!!! It’s now 3-1 in favor of the Kraken! I don’t know why they’re not showing more footage of the players’ friends/family/lovers in the arena. None of this happens without the support those people are providing day in and day out.
13:07 – A Kraken is hurt! But don’t worry, one of the medical trainers is seeing to him. (Are the player and the trainer secretly involved? Has the player unknowingly impregnated the trainer’s daughter as a result of a one-night stand?? We don’t know! But hockey romances would suggest that either of these things is certainly possible.)
8:24 – I think someone was offsides. But I don’t know. And I wouldn’t know what it meant if they were (though I think it has something to do with the blue line?). In this one, rare instance, it seems my romance novel hockey education has failed me.
4:28 – The mascot for the Kraken seems to be a large, blue Muppet bat.*** Nothing I have read in the romance genre or any other could have possibly prepared me for this revelation. I have so many questions.
4:20 – There is no goalie playing for Colorado. This seems odd, but who am I to say? I’m no Kelly Farmer/Anna Zabo/L.A. Witt.
4:01 – And now there’s another Seattle power play!! But the goalie has come back. At least for now…
2:12 – As we approach the final minutes of this, the Kraken and my first real life NHL playoff game, it’s worth noting that these people are very good at ice skating. This is not a surprise to me, as I deduced from my research that this was a prerequisite for success as a professional hockey player. But it only seems fair to give credit where credit is due. They can skate in many different directions, and most of them don’t even fall down.
0:00 – And the game is over!! The Seattle Kraken have their first win in the Stanley Cup playoffs!! We’re going all the way!!
And there you have it. I think we can all agree that romance novels prepared me exceptionally well for my new Kraken fandom. Not necessarily in that I understand the rules or strategy of the game, but I definitely have a strong handle on the feelings and motivations of the characters, which tells me so much more.
If you’re interested in shoring up your hockey knowledge, consider hockey romance! I’ll be honest: not all of the books I read were good. In fact, some of them really weren’t. (Quick tip: If I mentioned the author above, their books are good.) But if you want to jump into the world of hockey romance, Jess Pryde has you covered. Check out her list of hockey romances you should check out. Read up and maybe we can watch the next playoff game together.
***Apparently the mascot is actually a sea-troll. Not less weird.