Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Best Game...

I am a hockey fan. I am a hockey fan who used to play hockey for many years, so I know the game. Recently my youngest daughter and I attended a WHL game in our city. I have attended a few games this year, and each time I have been disappointed with the level of play that I am watching.

These are supposed to be young men on their way to the big league. Young men whose drive, ambition and talent have earned them a spot at this level. Someone forgot to mention to them that the type of play that got them to this team was supposed to continue on.

I saw no positional play, in fact, it was at times hard to determine who was in what position. They reminded me of the Atom level players, all the men on the ice seemed to gravitate to where the puck was leaving most of the oppositions team open. I rarely saw any passing, but what I did see was a lot of glory seeking puck hogs. They wanted the goal, failing to remember that the most important play is the one that sets up the goal. I saw little if any thinking, and hockey a thinking/anticipating game. Don't get me started on the skating, I thought I was watching a Sunday afternoon at Rockefeller Plaza. Absolutely no drive and no energy. It was one of the most boring games that I've attended in a long time. I couldn't wait for it to be over.

Their skill level seemed to be lacking and one was left to wonder exactly what we have a coaching staff in place for. The boys really need to be taken to task on the body checking skills. These guys are "jumping" up at the opposing player, with their elbows up. When contact is made it is usually the guy delivering the check that ends up on the ice thus taking himself out of play. It is sad to see the fundementals of the game, the most basic of skills seem to have been forgotten.

Today I had the pleasure of seeing my seven year old nephew play a game in a tournament. This young team played their postions to a tee; I was so impressed and almost in awe of the coaching when I witnessed them play a perfect box on the penalty kill. They skated their little hearts out to get to the puck, not one of them slacked. They were a TEAM. They passed the puck, they anticipated plays, they kept their heads up.... there was one play these little guys set up that culminated in a goal that would have made the greats shed a tear of joy. These young kids seem to have a better grasp on the fundementals and basics then the young men who have been playing the game for the majority of their lives.

At what point does the game get lost? When do the basics cease to matter? Where does it all go sideways....It is a sad truth, but the game is no longer a game. It is a business, a money making venture. The public wants a rough, at times violent game, they like to see blood drawn. It sickens me when I see fights being cheered on, and those who choose to skate away booed. Give me the days of LaFleur, Dionne, Clarke, Hull and Orr, that's when the game truly was a game. They were legends, they were tough and they had a respect for each other and the game that doesn't seem to exist today.

I hope my nephew never loses what I saw in him and his teammates today. I hope that this next generation can bring back the basics to the game. Most of all I hope they never lose the love of the game, the drive and the ambition I saw in each one of them today.

I will take a game at the little guy level over the big leagues any day!

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