You hear it all the time when people are defending the NHL…
“It’s just part of the game.”
The jabs and grabs after the whistle. The slashing and taunting. The fights. It’s just part of the game! Unfortunately, this isn’t helpful for anyone for those of us that want to start playing hockey.
Whether you’re 7, 17 or 37 just about everyone who wants to play hockey does so because they are fans of the NHL. I was 15 when the Quebec Nordiques came to Colorado to become the Avalanche. I instantly loved hockey. I cheered at the fights and the violence and marveled at the skill it takes to play. The Avalanche showed me what the NHL was all about and for all I knew, the NHL was hockey.
Fast forward 15 years (that would be last year if you’re not keeping track). I finally had the money, the equipment and some of the skills needed to play hockey. So during my 10 game summer season I tried to incorporate some of the things that were “just part of the game”. There were some problems though, hockey is a demanding sport and by the time the whistle blows or by the time I was frustrated I was too tired to really do anything. Nothing says futility like trying to slash someone and having the stick fall out of your hand or knocking yourself over while trying to facewash someone.
Another problem was that a lot of the guys I was playing against were either 20 years older than me, just plain better than me or just starting out like me. Anyone who spends their time goading those types of players is, basically, a jackass. I was a jackass. A worn out, pathetic, ineffective jackass, but a jackass just the same.
So if you want to lace up and start playing hockey, know this: The crap you see after the whistle in a pro hockey game is NOT just part of the game and it shouldn’t be in yours. If you want to see how you should play hockey go watch a high school or NCAA game and you’ll see that hockey is still a passionate, fast moving, fun sport.
If you’re a coach or an organizer for a hockey league, I’d like to hear your experiences with changing the attitudes of new players.