EDMONTON - Are you a hockey snob?
You might not think so, but the facts suggest you are. You are more likely an NHL fan than a hockey fan. When was the last time you watched a game, other than the NHL, that didn’t involve a family member?
My first hockey hero wasn’t an NHL player, it was Bernie O’Dwyer. He was a dynamic scorer with a bit of a temper. I’d met him a few times, and he even played road hockey with us at our farm once. For a young, impressionable six-year-old, he was the greatest player I’d seen. He played midget in New Sarepta.
In Tom Thumb and Mighty-mite (it is called novice today) I played on the same rink as O’Dwyer, and I wanted to be like just like him. I found the hockey incredibly exciting. I loved watching it live and sitting front row much more than I did watching the NHL on TV.
I thought going to the Omni-plex in New Sarepta, or watching the odd road game in Ardrossan or Leduc, was big-time. When we moved to Leduc, I remember watching the Stingers. There’d be 1,000-plus people jammed into the rink, and the atmosphere was incredible.
Now it’s a business
Twenty years later, we seem to have lost our passion for enjoying the game. It’s become a business.
For some, if you don’t make the NHL you are deemed a failure as a player. News flash — if you feel this way, then your brother, son, nephew or grandson is going to be a failure.
I’d bet every hockey parent $100 and give them 100-1 odds that their son won’t play 10 games in the NHL. I’d never have to work again. It’s easy money, because the reality for 99.9% of you is that your son won’t play in the NHL. The NHL shouldn’t be the only focus on why we play.
I’m not against having goals and dreams, but for most hockey families today the end goal is unrealistic. Wouldn’t landing an education via hockey be more prudent? Or enjoying the game and learning some incredible life lessons along the way? That doesn’t mean you stop focusing on the NHL, it just means that we recognize and enjoy the journey at the same time.
The culture of hockey needs to change. We need to start re-introducing kids to hockey outside of the NHL.
Look at the culture of football in the United States.
They support high school, college and the NFL. Kids grow up wanting to make the local high school team, and then, hopefully, get a college scholarship and, ultimately, make the NFL. The entire community supports the high school team, not just the family and friends of the current roster.
The school spirit for college football is incredible. The school spirit at CIS and ACAC hockey games in Canada is virtually non-existent. Of course, the institutions need to do a better job of making each game an event, but many hockey fans need to alter their elitist attitude towards our beloved game.
The statement, “I can’t afford to take my daughter or son to a hockey game,” isn’t true. You likely can’t afford the over-priced NHL more than once a year, but you can afford the AJHL, ACAC, CIS, WHL or midget and bantam AAA.
Why don’t you support amateur hockey?
For the second time in eight years your NHL has turned its back on you. You haven’t been able to get your hockey fix, yet some refuse to venture out to the local rink and watch the Edmonton Oil Kings, Sherwood Park Crusaders, Spruce Grove Saints, Camrose Kodiaks, Beaumont Chiefs, NAIT Ooks or any of the teams that are actually playing.
Why not? Is that hockey beneath you?
I believe the allure of making millions of dollars in the Show has changed how we view hockey. No longer is it just about fun. We tier seven-year-olds for goodness sake. Novice teams used to be split up between a combination of strong and weak players. And usually by the end of the season, the weaker players had improved because they had the opportunity to play with better kids.
Today, too many parents and hockey associations believe “little Johnny’s” road to the NHL begins when he’s seven.
If making the NHL is truly his goal, and not yours, take him to a junior game. Let him sit up close and embrace the speed and skill of the game. Allow him to experience the steps he’ll need to climb if wants to obtain his NHL dream.
Take advantage of the lockout and enjoy grassroots hockey. Your son might discover that aspiring to be the next O’Dwyer is just as satisfying as wanting to be the next Taylor Hall.
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