If There's a Downside to a Politician Being a Hockey Fan, I Haven't Seen It

Monday, June 13, 2011

Roars at a touchdown
slums near the harbors
liquor for the poor
uphold the State.

from "Three Talks on Civilization"
by Czeslaw Milosz

If I were a genuine, longtime hockey fan, and if I held a statewide office in Massachusetts, or were running for such an office, there is only one place I'd be tonight: the TD Garden, where the Boston Bruins will be playing the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Sports have always been a good way for politicians to connect with the voters. Just ask our state's junior U.S. senator, Scott Brown, who was reportedly known as "Downtown Scotty Brown" during his basketball playing days at Tufts.

Remember how Brown campaigned so effectively outside Fenway Park during the "Winter Classic" National Hockey League game there? And do you remember how things seemed to go downhill for his opponent, Martha Coakley, when it sounded later like she was dismissing the importance of campaigning at sporting events -- and coming across at the same time like she couldn't take the cold?

It was probably unfair to Coakley, who grew up in North Adams and never puts on airs, but such are the perilous snapshots one stumbles into when campaigning.

Although I can barely stand up on skates and my knowledge of the sport is thinner than a Zamboni's water trail, I have long believed that hockey is the ideal sport for a politician in our part of America to be perceived as a fan of.

Pound for pound, hockey players are at once the toughest, most skilled, least narcissistic and lowest compensated professional athletes. Average people like and respect and identify with hockey players. Average people also relate to hockey players in ways they never will with the millionaire specialists who play baseball, basketball, football and (God forbid) golf for a living.

So here's my recommendation to young office holders who desire a career in politics and dream of bigger things:

Get season tickets to the Bruins and go to as many games as possible. The tickets will put a big bite in your wallet every year and the games will use up a lot of your time, but eventually you'll become associated with the game of working class heroes in the public's mind. Voters will then tend to believe you possess virtues in common with hockey players and to reward you accordingly.

If nothing else, the experience will have been worth it if it confers an understanding of what constitutes a beating. A mugging in the media is easier to take than a pounding on the ice.

STANLEY CUP SIDELIGHT: I have a friend who works in an industry with a lot of blue collar, unionized workers and his company has four season tickets to the Bruins. Last Wednesday, the company hosted some 40 of its employees at a pre-game dinner in the North End of Boston. Then they put everyone's name in a hat, drew three names and gave the winners tickets to Game 4. "Why didn't you raffle off all four tickets?" I inquired. "Because," my friend said, "we had to have one of the bosses go with the three winners to the game. Otherwise, those guys would have scalped the tickets and gone home with the dough. Do you have any idea what those tickets were going for on the sidewalk? Our guys love hockey, but they're not stupid."

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