Hockey & The Omer: Tapping Into Something Bigger

Hockey, like all sports, is a world unto itself. Full of ancient rivalries, team colors and precise pre-game rituals (for players and fans alike), the parallels to religious traditions are not hard to find. In fact, it seems clear that professional sports occupies the same place for many people in the 21st century that religion used to, and without having to learn a foreign language, assent to arcane-seeming rules and gender-roles, or leave the comfort of your couch.

For those of us for whom religion and sport are both large parts of our identities, one does not need to take the place of the other. Rather, each can illuminate aspects of what it is we seek when we tie our time, money and emotional state to the fortunes of our favorite team(s). This is what Omer Time is all about.

With the sports world on an unprecedented pause due to COVID-19, and with the Jewish world trying to operate online and at a distance, now is a perfect time to step back and reflect on how the Omer, of all Jewish rituals, is perfectly suited to address the deep longing that all sports fans are feeling right now. Because the Omer – the 49-day period of counting and anticipation that ties the holiday of Pesach (Passover) and its memory of Israelite slavery to the holiday of Shavuot and its promise of Revelation – is all about grounding ourselves in the truth that around every corner, at the end of every period of “wilderness” in our lives, lies an opportunity to come together in new ways and change how we interact with ourselves, each other, and with God. This is where our name “Count To Where The Puck is Going To Be” comes in: drawing on the famous adage describing the brilliance of Wayne Gretzky, we are hoping that this year’s Omer might be an opportunity for us to use the daily practice of counting to envision where we are headed.

It is also an incredible opportunity to share our love of sports and reorient our attention to a daily practice that might allow the drumbeat of statistics to recede, grounding us a daily ritual that reminds us that there are bigger spheres of connection and meaning waiting to be tapped into, whether they are religious rituals, classic sports games, or both.

So here’s the game-plan: each week, we will share a reflection on what the week’s sefirah (mystical attributes of God) might mean in the world of hockey, and which players, teams, coaches, hockey ideas, etc. most closely align with it.

We hope you’ll share in the conversation to come, and let us know what you think! And if you think we missed someone glaring, or you would like to contribute your own homage to your favorite players, teams or concepts in hockey, drop us a line in the comments.

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