Even ice hockey's greatest detractors are not likely to doubt the athleticism that goes into the game. These are athletes with keen vision and great physical strength. However, very few people ever talk about the art in hockey. They talk about the fights, sure. The violence. Even the excitement. But people rarely mention the art.
For high-level hockey is, indeed an art form.
Ice hockey as an art form is part performance art, but part ephemeral art as well. True, thanks to video, some of those moments have been captured. Yet for all the moments captured in this video, thousands more are lost in infinity.
The art comes in the skating, in the puck handling, in the athletic grace. It's not easy to spot – sometimes those moments are akin to seeing a flower growing out of concrete. But they are all the more beautiful in their rarity.
Looking at the video, start with Jaromir Jagr, a maestro in the art of hockey. He is not a figure skater – you're not going to see choreographed moves. Instead you're going to see him so perfectly in the moment, and so in control of that moment, that he's almost dancing with his competitors. This is more evident in later clips.
Matt Duchene is one of the youngsters. Watch the arcs of his skating. For arcs, though, view Bobby Ryan evading opponents in the second clip. His twirl, though low, would grace a figure skating routine. That's not the art of the move though – that comes in the impromptu performance, in his balance and poise that takes him from the spin, past his opponent to calculate the precise angle at which to launch.
A dangle in hockey is a temptation, a play of stick and skate that extremely skilled players are able to perform. With their precise movement they're able to orchestrate a quick dance that leaves their opponent dangling.
See the youngster Duchene again for smooth skating and arcs. Then watch the maestro, Jaromir Jagr, put the smooth skating, the arcs, the dangles together into his own symphony. Remember, these are the plays that resulted in goals. Yet so often these artists created their ephemeral grace, and it was lost for no goal resulted.
For the art in hockey, making a goal is not the goal.