By Dan Woog
One day a couple of months ago, Craig Brownstein was enjoying a Washington Capitals game. He turned to his partner, Doug Johnson, and said, “You’re my puck buddy.” The two hockey fanatics laughed at the pun – a sly reference to you-know-what.
A couple of weeks later, a gay hockey blog with the same name launched.
http://www.Puckbuddys.com(the more grammatically connect “puckbuddies” URL was already taken) may not be the only gay hockey site in the blogosphere. But it sure staked out great territory.
The tagline is “for boys who like boys who like hockey.” Brownstein and Johnson make no apologies: They like both the game, and the guys who play it.
The attraction of hockey is clear, they write: “the speed, the flash, the unpredictability of a bouncing puck.” They also like “the coaches, the fights, the crowds.”
But mostly, the pair write, “we like the players – their amazing athleticism and physical abilities. And let’s face it: an extraordinary number of hockey players are simply hot – and that includes every single Cap.”
Johnson calls himself “a journalist by day and a Brooks Laich fan in the off hours.” (Laich is a 6-foot-2, 210, very good-looking left wing.) Brownstein – who works in PR – says he “spends his free time building shrines to Sasha Semin and learning to speak Russian.” (Semin is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right wing. He too is quite attractive.)
Puckbuddys is not your average hockey blog. A preview of a game against the Florida Panthers first mentioned injuries, then quickly noted: “let’s get to the meat of the post…. As painful as this is to say, as a rule, the Panthers are an exceptionally good-looking lot. “Bienvenido a Miami” indeed.”
To prove their point, Brownstein and Johnson posted photos of several Panthers. Two wore hockey gear. One shot showed players clad only in Speedos. A fourth had one guy wearing – well, it could have been nothing at all. Google Images is a wonderful tool.
Other posts include NHL news, player profiles and random items like a tongue-in-cheek photo of the Rev. Fred Phelps holding a sign “God Hates the Caps.” At least, I think it was a joke.
One thing Puckbuddys does not do is “granular level stuff – plus/minus ratings, minor league stats, all that,” Brownstein says. “We’re not puckheads. We couldn’t even fake it.”
In fact, Brownstein says, he never much cared for hockey as a kid. Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., he “wasn’t much of a jock.” By his early teen years, he knew he was gay. But he hid his sexuality, and joined – of all things – his high school football team.
“We were OK, but I sucked,” he says (referring to his skill level, nothing else). Still, that was an important part of his high school experience. “I was a crappy, directionless student,” Brownstein says. “I needed the discipline of football. It was my first immersion into a team – experiencing dizzying highs and horrible lows together with other guys.” He formed friendships that last 30 years later.
Neither he nor Johnson cared much for hockey. But – like many Washingtonians – they were drawn in by the Capitals’ playoff run a few years ago. Hi-def TV made the game come alive; the announcers were engaging and funny. A passion was born.
Then came Brownstein’s casual “puck buddy” comment to Johnson. The blog soon followed.
The gay perspective was natural. “A lot of players are ripping hot,” Brownstein observes. “Add athleticism to their natural beauty – and the fact that they kick the crap out of each other – and it’s perfect. Plus the traditional mainstream media never talk about how hot Alex Ovechkin is. He’s a vision.”
The blog has received boosts from mainstream sources, though. Yahoo Sports mentioned it, and Johnson and Brownstein were interviewed by Washington’s CBS radio affiliate. Local hockey blogs have thrown a bone to Puckbuddys too, although the Capitals’ front office never responded to an e-mail from Brownstein.
A video produced by the pair caught some eyes. They took a ubiquitous YouTube clip and fashioned it into a hilarious “Hitler reacts to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ loss to the Caps in the 2011 Winter Classic” video.
One thing the pair disagree on is: How gay is hockey? Johnson’s gaydar constantly goes off in the Caps’ arena. Brownstein, though, sometimes feels that he and his partner are the only gay fans in the place.
Meanwhile, the NHL playoffs beckon. The pressure will build on players, fans – and bloggers. Brownstein and Johnson are ready to cover whatever lies ahead. But they promise not to lose their sense of humor. After all, their blog notes, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re red all over.”
Yes, red – as in the Caps’ colors. You don’t need to be a puckhead – or a Puckbuddy follower – to get the pun.
But it helps.