In a terrible week for the game, hockey finds a bit of unlikely good press. Well, decent press, anyway. The New Yorker runs three short pieces on the game in Talk of the Town: a loopy one on Rangers icon Mark Messier and the state of the game generally (this one the subject of some mystification at TMFTML yesterday); one on John Kerry’s rink days; and my favorite: a look at the movie Miracle from the perspective of a great Russian player who was on the rise in the Soviet system in 1980, but just green enough to have missed being part of the defeated Olympic team. That man is now the oldest player in the NHL and one of my personal all-stars, a crafty strategist with unreal vision and a feather touch.
A few weeks ago, Igor Larionov, the New Jersey Devil and former Soviet star, who has been called the Russian Gretzky, decided that he needed to see the film. He went to a multiplex near his house, in Short Hills, with his wife and his young son, but they wanted to see something else. “So I went by myself,” Larionov said the other day, in the Devils’ locker room after practice. “I think I was the last guy to come into the theatre. The place was full. It was already dark.” Nobody in the theatre seemed to recognize him, in part because he is just a hockey player, and also because he hardly looks like a professional athlete: he is short and compact, with a thoughtful, boyish expression that, along with a proficiency at chess and an occasional quoting of Pushkin and the wire-rimmed glasses that he wears away from the rink, has earned him another nickname–the Professor.
Following the brutality in Vancouver this week, this reminder of some of the game’s better elements is a small but welcome palliative.