You thought that every day was Hockey Day in Canada. But, no the unofficial holiday fell on January 7. It started just six years ago, and now, one Canadian fan says, the event is bigger than Santa. On the big day, grassroots hockey games are played and celebrated throughout the country, and the Canadian Broadcasting Company shows hockey footage for 13.5 straight hours, highlighting how hockey defines both the parent-child and adult-child relationship, according the companys website. Down here, however, not only does hockey not define anything; its easy to forget that the sport even exists, what with the rink located in a swamp and ice being an elusive substance that we think about only when whipping up a batch of margaritas. Slowly but surely, however, the fan base is growing. To prove it, some numbers geeks over in the Florida Panthers camp have turned otherwise-meaningless statistics into a cause for celebration. Why, the Cats rank ninth in attendance percentage increase over 2003-04, they said in a press release! Not bad. But the Panthers might be even more popular if they slapped the puck around in a better-than-mediocre fashion. Theyre not the suckiest team in the league, but they are playing under .500 and at press time, ranked next-to-last in their division. Their on-the-road record is a pathetic 3-16-4. Now, the good folks over at www.hockeyfights.com keep records that mean something: details of all fights in the NHL. Here, too, the Cats are a little sub-par: of the 30 teams in the league, they rank 21st in the number of brawls, with just 12 this season. Eric Cairns starred in three of those fights; he spends the off-season boxing, and is so feared that even the great Jaromir Jagr has said that he doesnt like playing against him. I don't know how many beers he had before he had the interview, Cairns told hockeyfights.com, but that was definitely the feather in my cap to have someone like him say that. It was a huge thrill for me.
Wed., Jan. 25, 7 p.m.