As a self-professed knitting and hockey junkie, I find myself wrestling with what to do during the playoffs. My season tickets are in the last row of section 333, right on the aisle that extends from the west Blue Line (which is the Blackhawks offensive zone for two out of three periods every game), and we are like family in that section. I have been there since 1996, and so have many of my section-mates. They all see me knit during play, and then knit some more during intermissions. I bring something easy, like a sock, so I can watch my hockey and not my knitting. But the bottom line is, I knit during hockey games so I don’t start smoking, biting my nails, swearing incessantly, or slap the fans who yell out “Hit somebody!” from the Standing Room Only section.
The playoffs are a different ballgame (well, puck game) entirely, both for fans and specifically for knitters. I sometimes hold my knitting like a woobie during play, and try to knit like a freaky-fast delivery guy from Jimmy John’s during intermissions. Sometimes, I do not even bust out my knitting, but if you ask my friend Alex, he will tell you that I am better off having those pointy sticks in my hands. See, then those hands are occupied.
Tonight is Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Many, many of my friends are both knitters and Chicago Blackhawks fanatics, and many more are the spouses or siblings of these fanatics. I have polled them informally so that I could be fully prepared to offer tips on what to do with your yarn and needles this evening during the game.
If you are not a hockey fan…
You have three roads you can take: stay at home by yourself and just knit in your domestic bubble, stay at home with a group of knitters and stay in your domestic bubble, or go out and join the fun. The last option is only a good idea if you can remember that this is not the right game to sit next to a superfan and ask questions like, “How does icing work?” and “Wait…what did the guy do that he has to go into that box?” Either watch and knit, or do not watch and knit. Do not expect the Western Converence Finals Game 7 to be the game where you start learning about hockey.
If going out to the local pub is your path, find that weird seat at the bar next to the waitress station where nobody ever sits, whip out your ball of 100% worsted cotton, and knit Grandma’s Favourite Dishcloth or something equally easy, so you can still absorb the environment. Oh, and order a beer.
If you ARE a hockey fan…
Hockey is already a sport which induces a spike in blood pressure. Tack on the heightened stress of the playoffs, a Game 7 in a best-of-seven series (The Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks have traded victories for the previous six games) that determines which team plays the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Stanley Cup, and the fact that the Blackhawks are the last of the five Original Six teams still standing, and you have a ball of pressure-cooked sports euphoria on your hands. What to do?
First thing is first: knitting tension is determined by a whole host of environmental factors from humidity to time of day, but your stress level has probably the most profound effect. Either knit on something where the gauge for the pattern is already inconsequential, like a garter stitch scarf, or just start a new project. If you pick up a sweater sleeve during the playoffs and knit the other sleeve during the off-season, your arms will likely not match each other.
Knit something where you do not need to rely on a chart, or detailed row-by-row instructions, to get a pattern. Do you want to watch hockey, or not? Actually, it is possible you would rather not watch hockey; one friend of mine went outside to pace and fester after the Blackhawks tied it up in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013, and he missed the game-winning goal seventeen seconds later. But he sure felt better…the nausea disappeared.
The point is, knit something you have already memorized, so you can watch the game and not your knitting. If you drop a stitch or make a mistake, it will be much easier to fix later than it would be if you are knitting a pattern you have never seen before.
Be polite if you are out at a pub watching the game. The problem with knitting at a bar, even during the Western Conference Finals, is that it is a good conversation starter. What superfans fail to realize, however, is that asking you question after question about your knitting during the game has the same mental effect as you asking them question after question about the ins and outs of hockey during the game. Smile, make eye contact, answer, and look back at the game.
If you are like me, and you absolutely have to knit during games to avoid killing people, then here are some great projects to knit during even the most stressful of games: Kate Atherley’s Basic Ribbed Socks, the Honey Cowl by Antonia Shankland, Tiny Owl Knits’ The Beekeeper’s Quilt, and the Yarnspirations Textured Afghan from the Bernat Design Studio. All of these will be easy to rip out if a mistake is made, there is enough variation in size where the finished item will still work, and you will be able to see where you are in the pattern if you put it down.
Finally, if you cannot possibly stomach it and the game goes into triple overtime, or you have had too many pints, or there is literally no room for elbows because your viewing party is packed with people, put down your knitting. Watch the game. Cheer on your Blackhawks. And hopefully, if Chicago fans have their way, we can celebrate with our yarn and needles tomorrow morning.