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It was spring 2006. The Anaheim Ducks, still Mighty at the time, were trying for an improbable shot at the Stanley Cup. During the first round of the playoffs, the team’s star goalie, Jean-Sébastien Giguère, suffering from an injury, fell into a slump. Giguère had brought his team to the cusp of victory three years earlier, but now there wasn’t much choice: his replacement goalie had to be thrown into the lions’ den. The replacement, Ilya Bryzgalov, was a Russian rookie who was almost completely unknown to anyone except the experts. But you never know with these things. It wasn’t unheard of to see a goaltender come out of nowhere and end up winning the cup (just look at Ken Dryden and Cam Ward). Besides, it was playoff season; there wasn’t any time to lose. Bryzgalov answered with a 2-1 win the next game, followed by three back-to-back shutouts. The Ducks would perish in the semifinals that year, but the young man made one heck of a name for himself in the process. With all eyes on him, there was no disguising Bryzgalov’s dominant personality trait: an extraordinary sense of calm, an unshakeable serenity. Goalies are typically thought of as the oddballs of hockey, the mavericks at the margins of the sport, isolated from their teammates and concerned with obscurities that never cross the average person’s mind. But this was pretty extreme. A masked man who was even-keeled at all times, who never got worked up about anything? Come on. There was something almost suspicious about Foreword Thinker on the Rink By Jean Dion Hockey and Philosophy.indd 9 15-11-02 15:54 x Hockey and Philosophy that unusual sense of calm. Some of his teammates even wondered whether deep down he cared about any of it. Five minutes before game time, the coach could arrive and tell Bryzgalov he was going between the posts, and he would reply with a simple “Okay.” After that 2-1 win against Calgary, Bryzgalov mentioned that even in the thick of it, he had never been stressed. “I wasn’t nervous . Definitely not. It’s hockey,” he said. “Why am I supposed to be nervous? It’s a game.” The reporters asked him what the secret to his tranquility was. “If we lose,” he replied, “it’s not a reason to be grumpy because I know, for example, so many people in Africa who don’t have any food and die from disease.” Then all was laid bare: “I like history,” he continued. “I’ve been reading philosophy books for maybe five years. I like philosophy. It helps me in life. I find a couple of answers to my questions. I like ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Plato.”1 Sort of puts things into perspective. Of course, certain journalists reported that Bryzgalov “read Socrates”—no easy task considering this pioneer of Western thought left little to nothing in the way of written works—but reports like these only served to highlight how unusual the behaviour was. Reactions ranged from astonishment to amusement: a pro athlete who dabbles in philosophy? Sharper tongues went further : an athlete who reads books? True, a few years prior there had been Phil Jackson, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team: here was a man who gave his star player Shaquille O’Neal a copy of Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo to get his neurons firing. But that was pretty much where the story ended. It seemed that organized sport, that frivolous diversion, didn’t concern itself with philosophy any more than philosophy, presumably, cared for sport. Yet paradoxically, in North America, especially in the United States, religion plays an important role in sports. We see it every day. The baseball player touching his foot to home plate after hitting a home run, as he points his finger heavenward in homage to the supernatural being who pushed the ball out of the park. The 1. Ken Peters, “Goalie Bryzgalov Marches to Different Drum,” Washington Post, May 6, 2006. Hockey and Philosophy.indd 10 15-11-02 15:54 Foreword xi basketball player who openly thanks his Creator on national TV for the victory he has just achieved. The imposing NFL players who, after 60 minutes of intense combat, form a circle on the field, members of opposing teams mixed in with each other, to kneel in prayer. You could dismiss this as the...


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