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Tales from my travels: How hockey road trips have changed my life

Blogging about a sports team can often result in many an adventure and some of the most important relationships in your life. Here is a look at what writing about the Habs and hockey has done for me.

This should be a picture of me pumping gas in Ontario or something instead, probably.
This should be a picture of me pumping gas in Ontario or something instead, probably.
Justin K. Aller

This post is one from the charity series, and is being written thanks to a generous donation from my buddy doogie2k. Rather than make me write a parody or say something I never want to say, he has asked about my adventures in hockey blogging, specifically how watching hockey and traveling for hockey things has turned out for me. So be warned: it's a bit of a personal essay and a bit disjointed.

I started my own hockey blog four years ago because at the time, I didn't feel like there was a space where I could talk about hockey and be a girl and not be thought a novelty or adorable or whatever. Though there were a few male online friends who always respected me and my opinions on hockey (to whom I am eternally grateful, especially for all the times they would come to my defense), for the most part, I would get a lot of "lawl" in response to the things I would say.

What the fuck is "lawl" anyway? Is "LOL" not insulting enough? Must it be exaggerated?

Anyway. It turned out there was this glorious thing called ‘writing your own blog and getting a Twitter account and selecting the types of people you wanted to talk hockey with yourself, and not needing to bother with idiots who thought you couldn't talk hockey because you had the wrong set of parts.' Still, when I first started, I was completely anonymous and tried to stay as gender-neutral as possible for as long as possible.

The first time I went to a tweetup, to join people watching a Habs-Leafs game (also where I met the lovely Veronica for the first time, incidentally), a bunch of them were shocked to find out I'm female. Which I thought was awesome, but by that time, my experience on Twitter and the internet in general had shown me that there are tons of people out there who only care what you have to say, not what your gender is. Which isn't to say that I have never encountered ignorance or misogyny, but rather that the opposite has overwhelmingly been the case. So much so, that here I am proudly writing for one of the top hockey blogs out there (not that I'm biased or anything) thanks to Jerkshire. So that's one thing I learned from hockey blogging.

Another thing I learned from hockey blogging is that there are no fucking cabs in the city of Pittsburgh. And that I will apparently never stop complaining about this.

But let me back the truck up a little bit. Or rather, the car. I have this car I named Tayvz, for obvious reasons. I like to joke that my natural state is mid-road trip. Apart from running, road-tripping is when I am at my happiest. There's something about driving in the opposite direction of your job or work stress or ex-boyfriend and towards a hockey game, or a baseball game, or a hockey friend's house, or the NHL draft. Something that, even when you're exhausted and hungover and haven't slept in three days, makes you feel like you can do anything. It's really hard to explain, but whenever I feel like I'm in a life rut I get into my car and drive out in search of sports. It never fails to change my perspective. And it doesn't have to be a solo trip, either, friends are always welcome to join, unless they're high-maintenance in which case I'm leaving them on the interstate.

Most of my road trips are about getting together with a bunch of people and drinking and chatting and generally having a good time, but I feel like I need to include at least one story because I think doogie specifically wanted stories, even though my stories aren't very good:

This one time, my friends and I went to Boston so that I could see my first ever game at Fenway. We picked a weekend, made some plans with an awesome Boston friend, got Chemmy to ship his Red Sox tickets across the country because he'd just moved to California, drove to Boston, had some drinks with friends who are now the evil dictators at SCoC,woke up the next day to see the Red Sox play the Oakland A's, began by having an amazing time ...

... and then got rained out by the beginnings of Hurricane Irene.

(We decided to drive back home before the game was even over, and managed to beat the storm through Vermont and got home safe.)

This other time, we went to Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Pittsburgh is a frumpy but beautiful city, with a breathtaking ballpark, a gorgeous football stadium, a very nice hockey arena, and NO FUCKING CABS.

My friend Kathryn and I were wandering the concourse before the first round started, when we ran into P.K. Subban and his father talking to another hockey family, and he took a picture with Kathryn even though he was in a hurry to get inside. You'd think I'd lose my mind and get tongue-tied and shy and stupid and star struck given that it was P.K. Subban ... but no. I was totally cool, but later that night and that weekend, I ended up meeting hockey writers and that's when I lost my mind and got tongue-tied and shy and stupid and star struck.

It wasn't all bad. I met a bunch of people I knew "from online" and made a lot of new friends.

That's the thing about these road trips -- you always end up coming home having made new friends.

Here are the kinds of friends you make on travels like this: Friends to watch sports with, friends to drink with, friends to celebrate with, friends to grieve with. Friends who will drive seven hours on a bum right shoulder to make sure you have a good birthday. Friends who will go to a Red Sox game in Toronto with you. Friends who will cause you to make questionable decisions and then stick around to mop up the consequences. Friends who help you raise money for charity. Friends who give you career advice. Friends who give you life advice. Friends who remind you that that stupid boy isn't worth your time because duh, look at his sports team allegiances. Friends you can fly out to see for a few days because you need your sad turned around.

Friends who tell you they're proud of you because you ran a charity half-marathon.

I always cry when I think of all the times that happened to me back in June. Because here's what it is: you do this thing, and it's fun and amazing and challenging, and then your family is of course happy and proud of you, but it doesn't feel like you did enough, to you. Because you always feel like you could have or should have done more. And then all these friends from literally all around the world reach out to you and are proud and supportive and they make you feel like you can do more, and that you will do more next year and every year after that, because they know you can do anything you put your mind to ... and they'll be there to help.

And now I realize this post got kind of touchy-feely really fast and I don't know if anyone is still reading this far but that, right there, is how hockey blogging has changed my life.