The longing to retreat from rule-bound hockey is a desire to move from one play pole to the other, from what Roger Caillois has called the ludic to the paedic end of the play continuum. Ludus satisfies the ‘taste for gratuitous difficulty,’ while paedia ‘is the indispensible prime mover of play [that] remains at the origins of its most complex and rigidly organized forms.’ Allen Guttmann’s From Ritual to Record: The Nature of Modern Sports neatly bridges the gap between earlier works on game and play and modern sport by focusing entirely on sport, even while incorporating the theories of Huizinga and Caillois. Guttmann illustrates the difference between play and sport by comparing a ‘child’s unpremeditated leap over a bush or a rock’ with the ‘soaring, televised jump over the standardized crossbar’ or by comparing ‘a pebble skipped across the water of a pond with the complicated technique and awesome force of the hammerthrow.’ In a word, whereas play is characterized by the instinctive, sport is highly regulated and planned. To use Caillois’s vocabulary, the ‘unpremeditated leap’ is paedia; the ‘soaring, televised jump’ is ludus.
Hockey fiction shows that the focus on ludus in organized hockey threatens to strangle the primal play spirit, which is why shinny is more easily romanticized than versions of the game that seem to require fighting, that motivate parents to violence, and, at the highest level, give rise to lockouts and strikes. In shinny the playful core of hockey is retained, while the overly confining rules and restrictions are discarded.