Monthly Archives: March 2013

Live From the Nosebleeds: Brodeur’s third career goal, “Yes I Can” pulls at your heart strings, and hockey parents embarrass hockey

MARTIN BRODEUR SCORES HIS THIRD NHL GOAL, IN A VERY BIZARRE PLAY

Martin Brodeur, the longtime goaltender of the New Jersey Devils, has been around the NHL for  many, many years. I would bet that his is one of the few names (along with maybe Gretzky, Orr and Lemieux) you could mention to people who don’t watch hockey, and they will have at least heard of him. By playing hockey for that long, you are bound to witness some pretty strange plays. One such play would be what happened during the game on March 21st, against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The rules of hockey are made in such a way that there is no such thing as an own-goal, like in soccer. Instead, the goal goes to the last player on the scoring team to have touched the puck. Patrick Dwyer of the Hurricanes shoots, and Brodeur stops the puck and angles it into the corner. Jordan Staal of the Hurricanes then passes it back to the blueline, but no one is there to receive the pass. It slides all the way down to the empty net, meaning the goal is technically Brodeur’s goal. That was his 3rd career goal, the most by any goaltender.

The strangest part of all this? It counts as a power play goal.

The New Jersey Devils were on a Power play already. However, there was a delayed penalty against them, and that is why Dan Ellis (the Hurricane’s goaltender) was not in the net; he was on his way to the bench so that the extra attacker can go on. But because the puck went in before Ellis got to the bench, there was technically only 4 “skaters” for the hurricanes on the ice, so it is still a power play for the Devils. That is the second power play goal scored by a goalie, the first being by Evgeni Nabokov in 2002.

SPECIAL HOCKEY INTERNATIONAL “YES I CAN” VIDEO RESTORES MY FAITH IN HUMANITY

Every now and then, there’s a story or video that comes by that just makes your heart want to sing. This is one of those videos.

This was a moment from the annual Special Hockey International Tournament. It is a heartwarming moment, one that anyone can appreciate. It really brings out the true essence of the sport.  There is nothing sweeter that seeing one child help another when they are have a difficult time. Even after the big defenseman pushed the puck away (with a great poke check), his little buddy went to get the puck back, neither player giving up! I also enjoyed the goalie making a dramatic non-save, and then everyone celebrating with the player afterwards. It was one of the greatest videos I’ve seen in a while.

When I was assistant coach for a pre-novice hockey team, there was a mentally handicapped child on the team. The other players were extremely helpful and encouraging at all times with him. Even when he would be in the wrong place at the face off or go the wrong way with the puck, none of the players ever got angry with him. They just showed him in the right direction and told him to keep skating! It was amazing to see kids be so compassionate with one another. Sometimes, we really can learn from kids (cheesy, but true).

PARENTS GO COMPLETELY NUTS AT A GAME, EMBARRASS HOCKEY PARENTS EVERYWHERE

As I said, every now and then there’s a story that makes your heart want to sing. This is NOT one of those videos. Be warned, there’s some foul language and mild violence.

This is exactly the kind of crap that makes hockey parents look like complete nut jobs. It’s infuriating that people are able to take  a hockey game among children and turn it into a street brawl. The police are investigating in incident, which is exactly what should happen.  There’s no room for in this any sport, and people need to be held more accountable for when these incidents happen. I know that this is a rare incident, and most of the time people can enjoy the game without throwing punches. However, it still happens way too often. Apparently alcohol was involved (no surprise there), and by the time police showed up the fight was over. Are we really going to have to have police surveillance at minor hockey games to make sure the parents don’t start fights? It’s ridiculous. The same two teams played each other the next week with no incidents, but still. It’s dumb that it happens in the first place.

Part 2: Corrupt Coaches – Coaches being bad role models for their players

This is Part 2 of a 3-part piece on problems surrounding minor hockey. Check back next monday for part 3!

There is the infamous video on YouTube of a minor hockey coach tripping a player on the opposing team during the post-game handshakes (click HERE for the link). In fact, if you search the right words on YouTube, you’ll find a whole bunch of videos of coaches (or parents) acting inappropriately towards kids. I remember seeing one video where a coach shoves a kid down to the ice while the rest of the players are having a little shoving-match. These are just a few examples of coaches taking their job too seriously. They are not coaching a team of high-paid superstars on their way to a Stanley Cup. They are coaching children.

I started playing hockey when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I had been going to my brother’s games for a couple of year, and I was really excited to start playing myself. I’d be ready to go with all my gear on before we were even in the car! I wasn’t as good as the other players, who started a few years before me. That didn’t bother any of the other players, but the coach made sure to let me know that I was behind. He was constantly yelling at me during practices, and even though I was trying my hardest, I could never impress him. On top of this, I hadn’t received the right socks when I got my jersey, so I was wearing the wrong colour. My coach would scorn my every game and practice for not having the socks, even though it was completely out of my control.

He made me miserable. Halfway through the season, may parents would have to drag me out of bed to go to practices. This nightmare of a coach had destroyed my love of the game, and I no longer had the will to play. That was the only season of minor hockey I ever played. Looking back, I find it scary that one man can so easily kill a child’s love a sport. I loved hockey, and for the following years I still went to watch my brother’s games. But I never played organized hockey again.

This just goes to show how much of an impact coaches can have on their players. They, along with parents and teachers, have a very big influence on kids. They are supposed to be a role model to look up to, who acts in an appropriate manner at all times. They are supposed to support you in difficult times, and help you learn from mistakes. Many people discuss the amount of influence teachers can have on their pupils, but I think coaches are often overlooked. My old coach may have ruined my love of hockey (and maybe even a shred of my self-confidence), but I have heard many stories of coaches truly helping their players, both on and off the ice. Many coaches become role models and mentors to their players, teaching them how to get through difficult times, how to keep their head up, how to be a team player, how to be a good sport, and how to act under pressure. These are skills that can be used in all aspects of life. A good coach can really help turn a young player into a great person, just as a bad coach can have the complete opposite effect.

Sometimes a player on your team deserves a talking to, such as when they act in a disrespectful manner. As the coach, you have the responsibility to make sure your players act in a respectable manner. Yelling at a player is not acceptable, but telling them when they are in the wrong is important. It can be done in a controlled, constructive manner, informing the player of what they did wrong and how to avoid it in the future. A good coach can make a player realize their mistake without scolding or punishing them.

What can be done to make sure we filter out the rotten eggs? Coaches must get certified to coach minor hockey, and the higher the level, the more certificates the coach needs. I have never taken a coaching course, but I would assume that being a good role model is at least mentioned. There should be more emphasis on being a good role model and acting in an appropriate manner. Winning isn’t the most important part of being a coach; it’s about teaching kids how to have fun while trying their best. It should be a staple in the teaching courses, instead of the technical aspects of hockey. Don’t get me wrong, knowing hockey is also important. In my opinion, the job of a coach, especially in the younger divisions, is to be a good role model, and to encourage kids to enjoy the game of hockey.

As mentioned is Part 1, hockey is an intense sport. From time to time, there is a bad call or a bad play on the ice. The coach’s job is to coach his team while making sure his players act respectfully, have fun and do their best. Many coaches put too much emphasis on winning, and they leads to a hostile and intense atmosphere. This isn’t what hockey should be about. As a role model to kids, coaches must act respectfully, encourage their players and enforce the main principles of hockey: work hard, do your best, and most importantly, have fun!

Live from the nosebleeds: Luongo and Schneider bash heads, a mini-Datsyuk, and Kostitsyn’s “Back-check”

LUONGO AND SCHNEIDER MAKE LIGHT OF VANCOUVER’S “GOALTENDING ISSUE” WITH TSN VIDEO

Hockey players have been given a pretty bad rep when it comes to being charismatic. People hate hearing the cliche phrases used in almost every interview, such as “We need to put pucks on net”, “We have to play our game”, “It’s a team effort”, “We have to give 110%” and so on.  It’s almost as if players are given a cheat sheet for interviews with phrases they can or cannot say. When it comes to the Luongo/Schneider goalie issue in Vancouver, both goalies have said that they don’t mind sitting on the bench, because it’s for the good of the team. Although this is probably true since both goalies are true professionals, it’s still incredibly annoying to hear the same phrases used over and over again.Thankfully, it turns out some hockey players are actually funny. Check out this TSN-produced, James Duthie-inspired skit about the goalie controversy in Vancouver.

This is exactly what the NHL needs: players showing their personality. Luongo and Schneider agreed to do this skit to make light of a situation that has been tip-toed around by people in Vancouver. As this is a business of entertainment, I was very entertained watching this. It’s a hilarious video, and it shows that these players have good personalities (another great example of players being hilarious is another TSN video of the Oilers’ reactions after Jordan Eberle scored his first NHL goal. Click HERE for the link to that video). Their personalities are all too often hidden behind the bureaucracy of the NHL, with everything being hush-hush and behind-closed-doors. But every now and then, a piece of solid gold is created, giving us hope for the future of hockey players and their personalities. We know that they’re funny, so hopefully they keep being themselves and making us laugh.

POTENTIAL GOAL OF THE YEAR, BY A 5 YEAR OLD?

This video needs no introduction. Just watch, and be amazed!

I’m going to be honest, this kid is better than most of my teammates in the garage league I play in (no offense guys, see you Sunday night!).  He comes in at full speed, and then dekes around the defenseman before making a sweet move to fool the goalie for the overtime winner. Does it get any better then that? Even the celebration was perfect! I’m sure he will have a nickname like “Mini-Datsyuk” for a while. For those of you who haven’t seen Datysuk’s moves, here’s a clip from YouTube. He’s a magician with the puck, and announcers have even coined the term “the Datsyukian Deke”. Anyways, good job by the little guy. It was an awesome play.

BONEHEAD PLAY OF THE WEEK: SERGEI KOSTITSYN’S AWESOME BACK-CHECK

You know what really grinds my gears? Lazy hockey players. A good hockey player never gives up, no matter what the situation is. If it means skating your butt off for even the smallest chance of helping your team, a real hockey player does it. On Sunday night, Sergei Kostitsyn showed that he is not a real hockey player. He loses the puck to one of the Oilers’ players, and while back-checking he decides that it is a perfect time to get off the ice, leaving the Oilers with an easy 2-on-1 and in the end a goal. Here’s the video evidence:

I think my favourite part of the video is when he starts to slow down for the line change, you can clearly see both his coaches and teammates yelling at him for changing. I know what some of you are thinking; “Typical Russian player giving up on a back-check”. Well you’re dead wrong. The night before, Pavel Datsyuk (once again, man this guy is good!) of the Detroit Red Wings  back-checked as hard as he could and disrupted Ryan Kesler enough to stop what was almost a certain goal. I’d show you with video evidence, but I couldn’t find it. Unfortunately, good back-checks are rarely highlight or YouTube-worthy material. So no, this isn’t about a typical Russian player’s attitude. This is about Kostitsyn’s attitude,  and what was an extremely lazy play. He was a healthy scratch the next game, and the coach made sure he was held accountable for his gaffe. Hopefully he learns his lesson (but I doubt it).

Part 1: Parents Gone Wild! – The verbal abuse of children in minor hockey

This is Part 1 of a 3-part piece on problems surrounding minor hockey. Check back next monday for part 2!

A few weeks ago, I went to go watch a Midget BB hockey game at my local arena. It had been a while since I had watched minor hockey, so I figured I would go watch some kids play a good-spirited hockey game. These boys, aged 15-17, were good hockey players. They were not all incredibly skilled, but they knew how to play the game clean and effectively. At the time that I walked in, one team was beating the other team by a score of 6-1. A couple of minutes later, one of the defensemen on the winning team made some mistakes that led to a couple of goals. His team was now winning by a score of 6-3. However, one of the parents from the winning team decided that these mistakes were grounds to start heckling the young man. The parent began to yell, “You suck! Get off the ice!”. Keep in mind that this was a player on his son’s team, the same team that he was supposed to be supporting. Some other parents joined in and no one defended the poor kid. It made me sick to my stomach to watch this young man skate to the bench with his head bowed in shame. He didn’t play another shift for the rest of the game. It’s not because his coach didn’t want him to play; I saw the coach go and ask him to get out on the ice a few times. He just didn’t want to play anymore. His soul was crushed, as was his will to play.

There is a toxicity surrounding minor hockey. It seems that many parents seem to forget that these are kids playing. These are not professional athletes being paid millions of dollars to play. They are playing for the love of the sport and to be with their friends and teammates. This boy, aged between 15-17, was heckled and yelled at by adults he did not necessarily know. No child deserves that kind of belittlement, especially while they are playing a game.

We have all been teenagers; it is an awkward age to get through. You are going through not only physical changes, but mental changes as well. You begin to be self-conscious about yourself, and self-confidence can often be low. On top of that, you are playing a competitive sport where your mistakes can cost your team on the scoreboard. Imagine how this child felt, being told that he sucked by adults. Adults are the people all children are told to respect. They are supposed to help nurture these young kids into functioning members of society. What kind of message is that sending? That if you make mistakes, you are open to ridicule and abuse? That goes completely against the goal and purpose of organized sports, which is to teach children the importance and value of working their hardest while learning from their mistakes, instead of being alienated by them.

Parents have no right to yell at kids playing hockey. In fact, parents have no right to yell at anyone during a game. They are supporters of their team, and should act accordingly by supporting their team, their players and their coaches. If the goalie lets in a soft goal, be positive and tell him that it’s okay, instead of criticizing them. From time to time there will be a bad call or a bad play, and it’s natural to get disappointed. There is never a reason to become aggressive or insulting; the coaches are volunteers, and the referees are doing their best.

I realize that hockey is an intense sport, and people can get caught up in the excitement of it all. Nevertheless, there is no excuse to yell at amateur players, no matter what age or caliber. Encourage your child or team; make them feel proud to be playing. However, negative comments should never be tolerated, whether if it’s at your own team or the other team. These are kids, and they are playing a game. Hockey is a wonderful sport that teaches kids about teamwork, determination, hard work, and learning from their mistakes. This is not the NHL, and players shouldn’t be treated as if they were pros. They are there to have fun, and so should you.

Hatemail – Social media and professional athletes

We live in a world where more and more information is available to hockey fans through the internet and television. Shows like 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic, CH24 and Oil Change are giving fans a documented behind-the-scenes look at the inner-workings of hockey teams and its players. Fans are loving this. They have a desire to know what its like to be a hockey player. They want to see what the team road trips are like, what coaches say between periods, or even the banter between players on the ice.

Many players have helped make this easier by engaging with fans through social media, most notably Twitter. Players like Paul Bissonnette, George Parros, Andrew Ference, Jack Johnson, Taylor Hall, and many others have opened Twitter accounts for fans to follow, uploading photos of road trips, inside jokes with other players, answering questions, and so on. It really gives fans an inside, personal look at the life of a hockey player, something that was never really available before social media.

However, a small amount of fans have decided that having access to social media gives them the right to say whatever they want, no matter how hurtful or negative. They may be unhappy with how a player performed that night, or they may have lost a bet because the player missed an open-net. They may just be a close-minded racist bigot who thinks abusive comments are fine. The problem with the Internet is that it is a great hiding place for cowards. People say things that they would never say to another person’s face.  A prime example would be when Joel Ward scored the overtime winner in game 7 against the Boston Bruins in last year’s playoffs. Many people took to the internet to throw racial slurs and incredibly insulting comments towards Ward. The internet, being the sanctuary of anonymity that it is, means people can say these things without showing their faces, or even giving their real names. There’s barely a paper trail on the internet, so it can be difficult to trace these comments back to people. There’s little chance of being identified, and cowards take full advantage of this. They love the amount of attention they get from other people. They are energized by the anger thrown their way, because they can simply hide behind a username.

Some people take to twitter to make insulting and abusive remarks just for the sake of doing it. Other people do it simply to get attention from people. Some idiotic “fans” insult players until they get a reaction. Most players simply ignore or block these people, not giving them the attention they so desperately want. These people come off as being extremely stupid, but with the anonymity of the internet they can getting away with it with almost no repercussions.

Paul Bissonnette has found a way to deal with some of these people. By being one of the more animated and controversial players on Twitter, Bissonnette gets his fair share of insulting hate-tweets. Instead of ignoring them, he stands up for himself and replies with a “chirp” of his own. Not only does the fan get put in his place (although it’s debatable whether the fan feels that way), the rest of the followers get to see just how stupid this fan really is. In a way, everyone wins; the fan gets the attention, and Bissonnette get to make them look like a total imbecile.

Unfortunately, it’s not only players gets the wrath of these so-called fans. Many TV or radio personalities also get insulted by self-proclaimed experts. I follow Tony Marinaro from TSN 690 Radio on Twitter, and I have a lot of respect for him and his opinions (as I do with most experts). Although sometimes (very rarely) I don’t agree with his opinions, I always respect them. Some fans seem to think that if they don’t agree with Tony’s opinions, they feel that it gives them the right to insult him and question his intelligence (among other things). From time to time, Tony will retweet these “twits”, and then block them. It’s unfortunate that he has to do that, but at least he gets to show everyone else how dumb these people can be. Another example of sports personalities being targeted would be when Nabil Karim and Gurdeep Ahluwalia recently hosted the late edition of SportsCenter on TSN. Some people decided that this was a good time to start making racist comments on Twitter, such as calling them Osama and Saddam, or Harold and Kumar. Other people made jokes about TSN getting a Punjabi network. It’s shameful, surprising and disappointing that this still happens. Many people showed that night the type of close-mindedness and ignorance that is all too common in the world.  It should not be a big deal when two ethnically diverse men host a sports show, and I was happy to see many people standing up for them. The problem is that it gives them exactly what they want: attention.

What these people do is the definition of cyber-bullying. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone famous, a pro athlete, or an adult that you’re insulting. It’s cyber-bullying, plain and simple. Gord miller from TSN tweeted that many GMs and coaches are concerned with the amount of attention young players give to social media. I don’t blame them. It is only human nature to wonder what people think of us, and how we are perceived by others. Many players try to stay away from tabloids or articles about themselves, but the problem with social media is that it is right there for players to see. The only way to avoid it is to cancel their account and never touch it again. It is unreasonable to expect all athletes (especially young ones) to be thick-skinned when it comes to social media. They should not have to deal with the abuse they receive. It’s sad that it is considered part of being a pro athlete that people will send a lot of hate your way. It’s very unfortunate, but it’s a very dark reality. A key example of this is tennis player Rebecca Marino, who has recently stepped away from tennis. She has suffered from depression for many years, but  the amount of abuse she was receiving from social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook took its toll on her. This is a perfect example of what cyber bullying can do to an individual. It’s disgusting that such a young star can be turned away from the game they love partly because of fools on the internet.

Social media can be a great way for players to interact with their fans and vice-versa. Most of the people who follow professional athletes do so because they are fans of that player, and they want to show their support and know more about them. However, some people have done their best to ruin it with their abusive, cowardly comments. So what can players do? Unfortunately, not much. As an professional athlete, you want to interact with your fans as much as you can. You don’t want to close down your social media accounts because of a minority of people who are being abusive. It’s difficult for young players to deal with the type of negative or insulting comments they can receive through social media, and over time it can take its toll. It’s an unfortunate reality, but players and sports personalities need to be careful with social media. They need to grow exceptionally thick skin, and ignore the idiots that use social media to be the cowardly keyboard warriors that they are. There’s not much else players can do besides block the “haters” and continue interacting with the true fans.

Hockey By The Beach – Promoting hockey in non-hockey markets

Living in Canada, it is no secret that hockey is the country’s go-to sport. As soon as the snow falls and the temperature drops below freezing, the garden hoses and shovels come out to make backyard rinks. Most afternoons, the community rinks fill up with kids and adults alike, playing hours on end of pick-up hockey. Every Christmas break ends up being a two-week long celebration of hockey, with pick-up games being played all day long. There are hundreds of minor leagues (and just as many adult leagues) , many of which play year-round. People get together throughout the week to watch their team play for the win in the NHL. For many people, hockey is a way of life. It is no surprise that game after game, NHL teams in Canada (and most Northern states)  fill their arenas to the rafters with fans. In Montreal, it’s very difficult to walk around town without seeing a few Canadiens logos, whether it’s a fan’s jersey or a flag outside of a restaurant. The passion and adoration for the game begins at an early age, many stating that they fell in love with it the first time they laced up their skates.

Unfortunately, many people aren’t introduced to the game in that manner. A lot of professional hockey teams are located in states that do not have “Canadian” winters. There is no ice or snow, and thus no outdoor hockey; it is not a common sport that the local people can play. After school, kids go and play baseball, football, or basketball at the park. It is no surprise that these sports, when played professionally, capture the appeal and interest of the local population. These are the sports that people play, and therefore can relate to. It is hard to get interested in a sport that is inaccessible. According to the 2011-2012 NHL attendance records (courtesy of espn.com), four of the bottom five teams in average attendance were from southern states, (Phoenix, Dallas, Columbus, and Anaheim). The bottom 3 in attendance percentage were Columbus (80.8%), Dallas (76.8%) and Phoenix (72.5%). The Phoenix Coyotes had an average of 11,956 fans at their games, whereas the Montreal Canadiens (with an attendance percentage of 100%) had an average of 21,273. The cities, with similar populations, have a very different level of interest in hockey. According to arenamaps.com, Montreal has around 43 hockey arenas in their city, while Phoenix has only six.

These statistics are no coincidence. There are less people watching hockey in the southern states simply because fewer people get a chance to actually play the game. Teams have tried promoting the local team by hosting events to meet the players, lowering ticket prices, having contests and so on. These are all great tactics, and there is a lot of credit owed to the marketing groups for these teams. However, that alone is not enough. Focus should be on promoting the game of hockey itself, not just the local team. Playing and watching baseball, football, and basketball is extremely popular in the states, even at the College or amateur levels (much like hockey in Canada). Children go to the local park and try to imitate their favourite players, or join a team and try to feel the same camaraderie that their local professional team does. You simply do not have the same connection to a sport you cannot play.

To give you a personal example, I have never played cricket in my life. I have watched it on occasion on television (and once live at a local park in England), but I have never played the game. There is little interest in the sport in my area, so there are no cricket pitches around. If a professional cricket team moved and began playing in my area, chances are I would not go to many games. I may go to one or two games for the experience, but without playing the sport I would have little interest. I have no relationship with the game, so I do not feel the need to go pay good money to watch it.

In my opinion, the best strategy to raise attendance records would be to promote the game of hockey itself. Hockey needs to become accessible to citizens, both young and old. The community needs to create minor hockey leagues, have affordable pick-up hockey games at the local rink, have fundraisers to make the purchase of hockey equipment affordable, create late-night adult hockey leagues, and so on. In the example about cricket mentioned above, I said I had no connection to the game, so I felt no need to go watch it. However, if they began giving cricket clinics for people, or started creating local pick-up games or leagues in the community, then maybe I would have an interest in playing the game. In addition, as that interest in playing the game grows, so would my interest in watching the professional team. I now have a connection to the game; I have played it, and I now understand the fundamentals and the appeal of cricket. I understand the skill it takes the play the game, giving me a greater appreciation for the skill needed to play at the professional level. The chances of me going to watch professional cricket is much higher than before I had played.

It is difficult to get the ball rolling for something like this, primarily because hockey is an expensive sport (especially in the Southern states). In the North, we have the option to build relatively inexpensive outdoor rinks for everyone to use. They do no have that luxury in the South. It costs money to build arenas, it costs money to maintain arenas, and it costs money to buy the equipment. There is no guarantee that building an arena will mean people will start playing hockey. It is one of those vicious circles that seem to show up often in life: you need an arena for people to play hockey,but you need people to play hockey in order to rationalize building an arena.  It is usually a multi-million dollar investment which may not necessarily pay off. In my opinion, the way to increase interest in the sport is to start small, whether it means having free hockey once a week at the local arena, organizing ball-hockey tournaments, or have free ice hockey clinics with professional players or coaches for minor league teams. It is important to make hockey accessible for people. If people get the chance to play hockey and are able to relate and understand the beautiful game of hockey, then interest and popularity for the professional teams will rise. More people will go to games, simply because more people appreciate the game for what it is.