Lesson #4: Hockey is Simply Structured

This post is part of a series I’m writing about lessons that Music-in-Canada can learn from Hockey-in-Canada.

Here’s #4:

Hockey is Simply Structured

This relates to the previous post.  Creativity, spontaneity and beauty can only happen with structure.

The general rules of hockey are simple to understand and follow. First of all: puck goes in net.  Once you understand this, it’s easy to pick up the rest incrementally.

Further, the rules are the same every game.  When you watch a game of hockey, you know there will be five players on the ice, plus a goalie on each team.  There are always two blue lines, an offside rule, an icing rule and three periods of play.  These rules, plus many more, develop expectations; an observer can watch and anticipate the play.

Because of all this, audiences can effortlessly perceive and interact with a figurative common ground.  With common ground, you have a foundation from which you can deepen your knowledge of hockey, and deepen your relationships with other people.

For example, it’s very easy to understand the significance of a goal, when the puck goes in the net.  This either calls for celebration or despair.  Regardless, it’s a moment that can be easily understood and shared with friends, family, fans and strangers.  High-fives, cheers, hugs, “Did you see the winning goal last night? Wasn’t it awesome!?”

Compare this to music: When listening to jazz, most listeners don’t know what the musicians are doing aside from playing and not playing, starting and stopping.  Most listeners probably don’t even know that jazz is improvised.

The point is that there’s little opportunity for general listeners to find and build on common ground.  This speaks to the way jazz is structured.  Compared to hockey, jazz is extremely complex.

Once, a friend of mine asked me to take him to a live jazz show – he had never been before but was curious about the music.  I took him to a David Liebman performance at the local club – big mistake.  I think I permanently turned him off jazz music, but it was one of the best concerts I’d ever been to.

That’s because I knew the rules; my friend was utterly lost.  

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