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Make The Game Fun Again

from Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail,

This trifecta of concern – danger, cost, time – is what causes the leaping five-year-old to become, at 13, 14 or 15, the child who steps aside, who walks away from a game they might return to in their late 20s – at which point, for reasons easily understood by those who do return, the game suddenly becomes “FFFFUUUNNNNN!” again.

Costs are reasonable; time is minor; danger is mitigated.

Years and years ago, former NHLer and television analyst Howie Meeker was warning hockey that if it failed to keep “fun” in the game, teenagers would leave it. Skill, he argued, is what makes fun. “And you absolutely cannot learn a skill in a violent atmosphere.”

They did not listen. Instead, they barked back – and still bark back – that it’s “a man’s game.” Suck it up and go away if you can’t deal with that.

No one says it isn’t a tough and physical game and should remain so at the most competitive levels. But we know today that having one’s “bell rung” is not cartoon stars and birds chirping. Concussion – a stigmatic word professional hockey is increasingly refusing to use – is such a serious issue that, recently, the NFL agreed to a $765-million settlement with 4,500 former players suing it over the consequences. That the settlement seems so shockingly low when you consider the damage speaks more to the desperation of those in dire need of help than it does to reason or fairness.


Filed in: Non-NHL Hockey, Minor League, | KK Hockey | Permalink


Hank1974's avatar

What a great article, and I completely agree!
Every time I have the discussion about removing all bodychecking from any house-league level, I’m told to ‘suck it up’, or ‘put your kids in baseball’.
But when I ask these grown men what kind of league they play in, they all answer “rec hockey, with no body contact” (if at all - which is the usually the case. It’s usually some fat slob who’s never even played the sport, or had a cup of coffee with a peewee houseleague team for a season).

Some offer the excuse that they can’t find a contact league. So when I name several different leagues within 5 to 20 minutes of driving nearby, they stammer, make excuses or sometimes outright lie.
I’ve called a few of them out when I see them a year or two later asking “Hey, didn’t see you signed up for that full contact mens league the past couple of years. Why not?”

A great deal of guys I play with now all quit before they turned 15 and when speaking to them in private moments, nearly all of them say it was because they grew tired of the anxiety of getting smashed all over the ice.

Now, as a grown man, I know several parents who have kids that want to quit, or have quit because of the violence.

About a year ago, I started renting the ice for kids aged 10 to 14 and made up a casual league for them.
The kids put their sticks at centre ice and tossed, randomly to each side in order to determine teams. Pennies are then worn to distinguish the two sides.
Sometimes we play simple pond hockey without offsides or icing, or sometimes we play with all of the rules, but in every instance there is zero tolerance on hitting or any physical play.
Another rule is that there are no parents allowed in the rink area. They have to be in the concourse behind the glass.
Only 2 coaches on the ice, and 1 coach on each bench to open doors.
Sometimes we change on the fly, others we set a buzzer.

The kids simply can’t get enough. Most of the kids had quit hockey on their own fruition, but all of them can’t wait to get to the rink now.
The parents have told me how grateful they are that their child, who once adored hockey, are now back on the ice.

Essentially, they’re playing adult rec hockey while still in their teen or tween ages.
It’s such a shame that kids have wait 5 to 8 years before they’re allowed to do this.

And sure, most parents will tell you kids want to hit each other. Sure, I did at one time too. But then some kids get a lot bigger, and meaner, and when they get to a certain age, especially in House-League, most kids don’t even notice there’s a puck on the ice.
And pathetic parents, who live through their kids eyes, or need young teens smashing each other to satisfy their infantile blood-lust, are frothing at the mouth during each game.

But I guess I’m the person with the problem. “I have no balls”. “I should watch my kids play badminton”, etc, etc.
I guess there’s no room for people who simply want to have their kids love hockey, even if it means no contact.

Posted by Hank1974 on 09/14/13 at 04:00 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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