Yesod – יסוד

As we continue counting the Omer, we have introduced the week of Yesod, which I have been told by rabbis I trust to translate as “foundation.” Yesod is associated with the power to contact, connect, and communicate.

Before we go any further, take a look at this textbook example of “contact, connect, and communicate,” known to Vancouverites and Canucks fans around the world only as “The Shift.”

It is easy to fit the theme of “foundation” into the hockey world; the foundation of any hockey club is its special teams: powerplay and penalty kill. 

…or so I’ve heard.

Yes, the elephant in the room. You may be wondering why the fine people in charge of this blog asked a Canucks fan to write about powerplays. And it’s true… this post was almost just a collection of poorly-executed drop passes. 

So I did a little research, lest I disappoint the faithful readers. And I now feel equipped to guide all of us through this conversation about powerplays, the Omer, and why Yesod is on every hockey players’ mind every single game.

For Omer counters just joining us, a powerplay occurs when a player does something against the rules. The offending player has to sit for some time (usually two minutes), meaning their team only has four players on the ice compared to their opponents’ five. The team with five players is “on a powerplay” and the team with four is “killing the penalty,” and the groups of players on the ice in these situations are known as ‘special teams.’ 

In the tradition of comparing the seven lower sefirot to the seven days of creation, Yesod ends up parallel to the sixth day, Friday. This connection brings up two intense associations for me: first, the feeling of panic as I rush around on Friday afternoons, trying to get everything in order for Shabbat. Cooking, cleaning, whatever else I have put off until that moment. The second feeling is the calm of Shabbat itself – only possible because of the work I put in the previous day. Shabbat rest is built on a foundation of Friday labour.

Whether our systems are Friday afternoon to-do lists or penalty killing strategies, when they come together amazing things can happen. For more on this, see the Winnipeg Jets successfully killing a three-man-advantage back in 2014:

The best example of a powerplay system or set-up is probably the “Ovi Spot” – Alex Ovechkin’s spot at the top of the faceoff dot, where he stands to score on you and there’s not much you can do about it. Here’s a video of a compilation of all his powerplay goals from that spot… I would say watch the whole thing right now, but fair warning – it’s 25 minutes long… that’s a lot of goals!

Of course, the importance of a team’s powerplay system goes the other way too: when things aren’t going well, it is obvious, and it is painful. During the 2010-11 regular season, the Canucks boasted the league’s best powerplay, scoring on just over 24% of their chances. During the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins that year, the Canucks’ powerplay scored on only two of their thirty-three chances – or 6%. 

There’s no video to show this because that way I don’t need to admit that it actually happened. Moving right along…

Yesod is the foundation of creation; that on which everything else rests. It also represents the idea that each individual is small relative to the generations to come – we can achieve more together. Breakaways are exciting and fancy dekes are cool, but when it comes down to it, one of the best parts of the game is watching a team smoothly execute a plan – whether that’s a powerplay goal or killing off a penalty. 

Strong special teams are one of the foundations of the sport and watching a great powerplay reminds us that just as God has the ability to create, so too do we. 

In conclusion, here are some beautiful examples of powerplays “creating.”

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