BOSTON (CBS) – The Bruins and Lightning will play Game 7 Friday night, which means one team will be making tee times on Saturday.
It’s a figure of speech in all sports, but has an especially literal meaning when it comes to hockey. Remember when Brad Marchand mocked the non-playoff bound Maple Leafs bench by skating past them, simulating a golf swing during their March 31st game? It backfired as the Bruins lost in a shoot out, but that’s not the point. They knew what he meant. We all did.
More than any of the four major sports, it seems like hockey players play the most golf, and play it well. Marc Savard and Brett Hull were listed as having handicaps of 0.6 and 0.0, respectively, by Golf Digest in their ranking of Top Athlete Golfers in 2009.
In fact, six current or former NHLers made the top 20; Savard, Hull, Mario Lemieux, Jamie Langenbrunner, Mike Modano, and John Michael Liles. That’s more than MLB, the NFL or any other sport.
I’ve heard on good authority that Ray Bourque has a $100,000 simulator in his home, like the ones you see in high-end golf stores and golf expos. I saw Chris Chelios at the old Desert Inn course when I lived in Las Vegas. I hated him as a Blackhawk, barely accepted him as a Red Wing, but like him as a golfer. Like Harvey Penick said, “If you play golf, you’re my friend.”
So why do hockey players like golf? What makes them good at it? I asked my friend Scott Hawley, a professional golfer on the Canadian Tour and an avid hockey player.
“It’s a similar motion, the slap shot and the golf swing,” says Hawley. “You have to have a strong base for both, keep centered, and hit down to achieve the right trajectory.”
While I’m sure he’s right, I also like to think that golf is the ultimate departure from hockey. The quintessential winter sport versus the quintessential summer sport. Trade ice for grass, skating for walking (or riding), frantic seconds for contemplative hours. And either the Bruins or Lightning will get to make that trade soon.
Let’s just hope it’s the courses in Tampa Bay who are filling up their tee sheets, and not the ones in Boston. As much as they like to play golf, I’m pretty sure the Bruins would rather play hockey.
At least for another couple of weeks.