Not a security blanket per se. It was as close as I could get.
I had a bit of an epiphany last night on my way home from somewhere. I was in a meh mood. Not a terrible mood, but I just didn't feel particularly hot. I flipped on the radio, hunted down KMOX, and listened to the Wild/Blues game a bit on my way home. It always has amazed me how I can get KMOX here in Atlanta clearer than nearly any Atlanta AM radio station. The second I flipped it on and heard Chris Kerber and Kelly Chase calling the game, the irritations of the day went poof. Horrible drivers? Moms in minivans who can't drive in grocery store parking lots? A collapsed cake that I had to re-assemble like a jigsaw puzzle? Gone. I calmed down and made it home with yelling at a minimal amount of drivers.
The highlight of the drive was when David Perron scored his goal, and the goal horn blasted through my speakers. I was off of the highway at that point, and at a stop-light. Generally speaking, I listen to music loudly, and I do tend to listen to hockey broadcasts that way. Perron scored, the horn blared, and I screamed "YEAH" at the top of my lungs. Scared the bejesus out of the guy next to me. But you know what? It put me in a great mood.
I finished watching the rest of the game when I got home. The Blues winning - not just because it was a shootout win - absolutely had me smiling ear to ear. And then I realized it - that was my security blanket. Hockey is my Prozac, my "happy pill," so to speak. If I am ever in a meh mood, a foul mood, or have troubles that I'd rather not pay any attention to, I flip on a game. It doesn't have to be the Blues - I'll watch any game that's on TV - but it just calms me down like a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel does with a puppy. I veg out, I may or may not have a few glasses of cider, but the nuances of a hockey game and broadcast snaps me out of whatever's going on.
This is why I tend to throw myself into writing so much (though you might not see it here due to the sporadic nature of whenever I write). If I focus on hockey, and then focus on how to express my thoughts and opinions, there's not enough time to dwell on anything else. If I'm having a terrible day at work, taking a minute or two to type up the gameday preview on SB Nation St. Louis clears my head. The other day, a post about the Florida Panthers over at Puck Drunk Love was my time-out. I set my fantasy line-ups every morning as a metaphorical mind-clearing cup of coffee, and I read Puck Daddy during lunch when the news websites I read make me irritated with the world.
The numbers, the stats, the characters who populate the game, the rivalries - it's all very leveling to me in a zen-like way. I am disappointed still that my hockey-season after work ritual is gone. I miss getting off work, going to the CNN Center, grabbing an issue of Creative Loafing or maybe bringing a book, and sitting in quiet drinking my jumbo Newcastle or Bass before the crowds started to show up. The people-watching and the stats checking before the game was great, but there's something tremendous that I miss about putting on the jersey a few times a week, wrapping my Thrashers scarf around my neck, and going to my own personal safe place. Yes, most people's "safe places" don't encourage drinking in excess like the Thrashers tended to do, but that's neither here nor there.
Without them nearby and the ritual broken, I find myself watching more and more on TV and reading more and more on-line. The couple of games I headed up to Nashville to go see reminded me of how great it was to be in an arena filled with hockey fans, and it made me miss what I used to have. I will say though that the drive to Nashville - the nice, quiet three and a half hour drive with me, my thoughts, and my music - could be a very easy substitute for the mind-clearing at the CNN Center. The hotel, the game, everything that goes with heading out of town... that was the best overnight trip I've taken in eons because it helped me center myself for the last week of work in 2011.
Everyone has their own security blanket, or thing that they turn to when times are tough or moods are dark. Hockey is mine. Please, someone let me know this is normal. Not that I care or anything, but confirmation's always nice.