Hockey is brutal. Ice skating just might be the most graceful feat of athleticism a human being can undertake. Ice hockey combines that swift, elegant skill with cro-magnan blunt force trauma. It is the latter, more violent side of the sport that most people associate with hockey. The checking, the masks, the sticks, the blood, and the missing teeth - these are the staples of the National Hockey League.
But hockey isn't just beautiful display of physical talent. It isn't just a sledgehammer on skates. Hockey is a sport of rich and meaningful tradition, and it is that unbroken sense of history that fascinates me most about the good old hockey game.
My favorite of the many traditions, of which I only know a few, is the one that closes every series during the Stanley Cup playoffs. After the deciding game, after one team has pummeled the other into submission, the two rosters line up and shake hands like gentlemen.
It's good to know that there are still places in this world where you can do your darndest to destroy another person . . . and when you fail, you shake hands. Cool, eh?