matter how charitable or positive you are about the
game, this hockey team is mean, undisciplined and nasty. Odds
are the Falcons will soon be league champions.
were runners-up in league play, one point out of first place.
They watched as two of their rivals played on the last day
of the season. The victorious team was packed with players
who were quick on their skates, scored pretty goals and were
a delight to watch.
first-place team lasted three lousy games in the playoffs,
knocked out by a team that came in eighth and stood 18 points
behind them in the standings.
are different. The game is more intense; the hits are harder,
the celebrations more emotional. How do the Falcons deliver
more when one of their highlights of the season was a three-hour
debacle that ended with the police racing to the arena to
start by intimidating each and every opposing player, all
of it permitted by referees who have decided to show leniency
during the playoffs. When a defenceman goes into a corner
they follow at high speed, hammering him into the boards.
The top hand on their stick is always a bit lower, leaving
the butt end ready to be jabbed into a stomach or chest. When
the puck gets loose they continue their assault and get in
one last punch as the ref looks down the ice.
stick is a weapon that's flicked into a player's stomach or
slashed across his ankles. A big, tough forward is in front
of the goalie at every opportunity, kicking at his stick or
even his skates. Throughout it all there's a running commentary.
The words, the phrases, are unprintable. Their goal is to
beat up their opponents physically and psychologically. Make
them fear for their survival.
who are faced with such a barrage lose their cool. They lash
out in retaliation. They go out of their way to get vengeance
and end up taking stupid, unnecessary penalties. That's when
the Falcons' skilled players take over. They move the puck
quickly with uncanny accuracy and often score on the power
course, hockey is a fast and unpredictable sport, which means
the game doesn't always unfold as planned or expected. The
puck bounces in a weird direction, a goalie gets on a roll,
a key player is injured or winds up in the penalty box. Teams
that aren't expected to win do.
into game three the thugs are nervous. They've executed
their plan well, yet they're behind in the series. And now
they're down 3-0 as the second period begins against the Bulldogs.
of the game can read the mood of the moment. The referee who
has the game in his hands can see it building toward an explosion.
He calls a penalty on the Falcons for a painful slash. The
torrent of abuse hurled at him is even louder than the sound
of the stick colliding with the player's leg. The ref adds
two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
later there's a boarding call. This time the opponent turns
and strikes back. Both of them get penalties, one for roughing,
the other for slashing.
is a battle in front of the net. One of the Falcons' defencemen
shoves his stick between a Bulldog's legs and almost lifts
him in the air. The player is left rolling on the ice. The
ref hands out a major penalty. The outraged player charges
towards the official, but is stopped by the linesman who runs
interference. The ref ejects him from the game. The invective
few moments later it happens again, this time the infraction
is an obvious hit from behind. His sentence is automatic,
a two-minute penalty and a game misconduct. He duplicates
his team-mate's exit, hurling obscenities at the officials
and then at the crowd.
the end of the period four players from the Falcons have been
kicked out. It should be an advantage for the Bulldogs but
the opposite has happened. Their desire for revenge, the ruckus
caused by the penalties, and the viciousness of the Falcons'
play has thrown the Bulldogs off their game. They're thinking
more about survival than hockey.
third period opens with the Bulldogs a man short.
The Falcons score. The four banished players are in the stands,
prancing and screaming. They walk behind their opponents'
parents making menacing comments. Another goal is scored and
then another. The game is tied.
arena is awash in anger. The Bulldogs' parents are quiet,
beaten into submission. The suspended players verbally abuse
the girlfriends of their opponents. A young kid, maybe nine
years old, mouths insults at one of the parents. His older
brother laughs at a woman who shakes her head in disgust.
There doesn't appear to be any limits on their behaviour.
Falcons take the lead. One of the exiled players stands within
metres of the opposing parents and screams obscenities. His
hands are clenched. The veins in his neck are popping. He
bobs on his toes. He's out of control.
parent from the Bulldogs tries to diffuse the anger by offering
to shake hands, to symbolically make peace. The offer is rejected
and the tirade continues.
game ends with the Falcons victorious. As they leave the ice
they taunt their opponents, make obscene gestures and mock
accomplished their goal. Through intimidation and fear they've
taken control. Total victory is just three more battles away.
up, I played hockey. I worked part-time when I was old enough
to work at a small town grocery store as a stock boy. I worked
at the golf course as a caddy throughout the summer months
and did everything I could to make sure that come fall I would
have saved enough money to play the game I loved.
Although I wasn't always wearing the "top of the line"
equipment, or using the fancy sticks, and although my gear
certainly wasn't worth the thousands of dollars we, as parents,
so eagerly spend these days, I was proud just to be able to
like many others, I am guilty of paying too much for the equipment
my children have worn, all four of them ... two boys and two
girls. Yes, like many others, I wonder if my kids will look
back and appreciate all that we have done for them as they
play the game we love. In the end I guess it doesn't really
like many others, my wife and I have given up many of life's
little luxuries so that our children could play at the higher
levels. And yes, like many others, we see the look on their
faces when they play, we see the friendships they carve out
of the ice, and we see the life lessons they learn although
they may not until later in life.
it is worth it. Just ask any coach what the opportunity to
be involved in hockey has given him/her.
have watched midget hockey as a dad for two years and there
have been steps to clean up the game. Referees are very quick
to penalize players for verbal abuse, for unsportsmanlike
jesters to fans and other players, as well as penalizing coaches
for unsportsmanlike conduct.
son's team was in their second round of the playoffs and a
father from the other team was getting out of hand with his
comments in the stands. It was not long before an OPP officer
was standing right beside him.
don't like seeing the game trashed so much in the media, writing
only about the 1% of the bad things that happen and that happen
in every sport.
coach initiation hockey in our centre and you should see the
transformation that takes place in these 4-6 year-olds during
the season. Not only do they become more skilled at hockey
but they listen better, they follow direction and they are
have two novice local league teams in the playoffs together
. They have played the last three games into overtime. Now
that is fun and fantastic hockey to watch, worthy of national
attention. These boys and girls are playing like they are
in the Stanley cup finals.
a lot of time in the rink and fantastic things happen there,
just like any sport. I wish I was able to and other people
were able to read about it.
up in New York and now live in Berkeley, California, but your
articles ring true. Change hockey to basketball, change freezing
your toes off to sweating in a sweltering New York summer
and we all have had the same experiences!! I was a park rat
playing hoops as a girl and a young woman, and now try and
transfer my experience and love for the game to the boys &
girls I coach at the local YMCA.
wonderful seeing kids who make their own fun through sports
as we did "back in the day" - no need to play video
games and the like. Sports are the universal language and
I can identify with everything you write! Keep up the good
work, this American will be reading!