Love for the Game Diminished
My love for the game has taken a massive hit this year.
I'm in my late 30's now and I fell in love with the game as a 12-year-old. I didn't know how to skate but I learned and quickly joined a local league.
I got steadily better over the next three years and then quit organized hockey when I turned 16 (school and work got in the way).
I continued to rent ice and play with my buddies and I really couldn't watch enough hockey. In fact, I'd tape almost every game I saw.
I would even tune into the French CBC (channel 54) to watch Nordiques games. It really didn't matter who was playing, I was obsessed.
But this year, my love for the game took a massive Avery-esque dive.
I have 2 young sons who were in minor hockey and both had bad years. My oldest, who was in his fourth season and a first-year Novice was benched multiple times throughout the year when the coach shortened the bench in the 3rd period to get the 'W'. (this is houseleague mind-you). Needless to say, this did not go over well with myself or the parents of other kids who also saw shortened time in order to win an all-important houseleague game.
My youngest son started hockey for the first time in his Timbit division. For the first time, our board in it's infinite wisdom, decided to remove all games from the structure so it was nothing but practices until late February.
I disagreed with this line of thinking, but I was willing to give it a shot (I volunteer on the ice like I have the past 4 years). The main problem was how horrible the practices were.
Our convener wrote up the practice plans and they were terrible. All of the stations were a minimum of 10 minutes (some as long as 12-minutes) and included drills that most adults can't do. Imagine telling a 4-year-old, who can barely skate, to do cross-overs for 12 minutes on the blue line. Or 8-minutes of forehand shooting against a wall, followed by 8-minutes of backhand shots against the boards.
Very rarely were the kids given free time with pucks just to have fun, and it wasn't very often that we were allowed to play fun games such as Cops-n-Robbers or British Bulldog to end a practice. The kids absolutely adore those games and give it their all when playing them. But since our convenor didn't see how those games helped develop skills, they were rarely instituted. Not only that, myself and other volunteers got the distinct notion from the convenor that 'FUN' wasn't necessary in this program.
The reason why we stripped games from the curiculum? I was told because our travel teams were having problems beating a local town. So they figured we needed more skill development.
I'm okay with that, but the practices were so bad, very few kids actually improved. In fact, out of the 4 years I coached Timbit hockey, this year was the worst for it.
In previous years, kids that couldn't stand in Week 1, were scoring goals by week 20. Not the case this season. And it showed in attendance. We averaged about 65% attendance throughtout the year. My son, who was so geeked about his first year of hockey and wore his equipment in August around the house, suddenly didn't want to go to the rink anymore.
I had to bribe him to get him there. He still loved to play hockey on our backyard rink, in the basement and even with plastic hockey players he got for his b'day. But as far as going to the actual rink? Forget about it.
On top of this, the NHL game has never looked more boring to me. Every team plays the exact same. Almost every goal is from a rebound, deflection or screen. The most exciting hockey team in decades was forced to turn into a defensive trap system. One of the most exciting players on the ice was out for half the year with a concussion.
And then there's the topic of all the horrific head hits, needless fights and the general tom-foolery that takes place on a nightly basis.
I know I sound like a tree-hugger, but I'm tired of the useless violence that occurs in the NHL. Players couldn't care less if they kill one another. And it's trickling down to the lower levels.
This year in my older sons Novice team I witnessed some horrific acts:
- player chopped another player over the head with his stick for poke-checking the puck away.
- countless body checks and forearms (even though it's non-contact).
- a stick-fight near the end of a game.
- an opposing player punched a number of kids on my sons team during the post-game handshake (the coaches from the other team apologized and said he's done this before because he doesn't take losing too well).
- fans screaming at refs.
- coaches screaming at refs.
- players crying on the bench because they made a mistake and were berated by the coaching staff.
I'm seriously wondering if I want my kids involved with this sport at all. What's disturbing is that some of the kids who were responsible for this violent behaviour didn't act anything like it during baseball and basketball. I have to think the reason is twofold:
1. Nobody in Canada takes those other two sports nearly as seriously (kids and parents included).
2. the MLB and NBA don't promote fighting and encourage giving into emotions like the NHL does.
In summary, this whole year was just bad. I dislike the NHL product and I really didn't like the things I saw in my two sons divisions.
I'm really started to question why I'm putting the time and money into this sport. Both my boys have taken a real shine to other sports such as swimming, basketball, baseball and soccer. And I'm okay with walking away from hockey as far as my kids go.
It kind of breaks my heart though. I used to love hockey and when my wife gave birth to two boys the first thing I thought of was getting them on skates.
I really couldn’t care less if either play travel or any high level of hockey. I just wanted them to learn how to play so they could play as adults with their friends and pass on their love to their kids.
But seeing how bad things are in the NHL and how bad things can get at the lowest of the grassroots levels, I'm not sure it's worth it anymore.
I'll still continue to build a backyard rink and rent the ice for my kids (and my friends kids) so they can play here and there. But as far as organized hockey I might be done.
Please feel free to respond with your own thoughts including any disagreements you might have with my opinions.
I just wanted to see if anyone else feels the same, or has felt the same. Or maybe it's just a short phase and perhaps next year things could turn around.
My brother is kind of like you. He didn't start playing hockey until he was 11. He finally pressured my parents into letting him play, and now my parents just absolutely love watching him. He started loving the game when he was 8, and you could routinely see him down in our basement, watching a game, and then writing out the lines for every team in the NHL. He'd also spend hours down there shooting a ball against an old bookshelf. He started out playing local league hockey, and then moved up to Rep level the next year. He claims that at the rep level, the teams take hockey more seriously, instead of goonery. Even so, he hates post whistle scrums that happen all the time, and he has stressed that he just wants to play, and how he wishes that some kids would simply play, instead of fighting. Maybe it has to do with the age group (Bantam) where the kids are generally a little unruly, I don't know. This year, a guy on his team was knocked out on a vicous hit to the head where the puck was nowhere to be found. That was pretty hard to watch. Even more disgusting was the reaction from the parents of the opposing team, who were calling it a "clean" hit. But I'd say overall my brother still is in love with the game, he simply can't get enough. Even in the offseason he is on the ice probably 3 times a week, just shooting pucks or playing shinny with his friends. I can definitely see why you might not love the game as much anymore though, honestly, I don't think that coaches should shorten up the benches unless it's AAA level hockey. The kids are first and foremost there to have fun.
If I put my kids in hockey next year I'm definitely going in as a head-coach. And I'm going to make sure all the parents know what my philosophy is about winning, etc.
We actually had parents from another team demand their child be moved to our team because their coach didn't care enough about winning. After they lost 8-0 the coach came in the room and told the kids the played great and 'we'll get them next time'.
The parents were appalled at how flip he was towards the lopsided loss.
Then we wonder why some of these kids take winning too seriously.
I swear, I think if you removed parents from the equation, we wouldn't have 90% of the problems in minor hockey.
sorry to hear about your boys & the bad time they are having at the rink. Sounds like the coach is taking house league way too seriously. Since you coached, you already have figured out a few things about this league:
1) Skills development time is good, but that practice plan did seem unrealistic. While it is important to nail down the basics, it should be fun. Telling a 4 year old to do crossovers for 12 minutes is way out of line.
2) Shortening the bench in a houseleague?! Seriously, WTF over?
3) Small area games do more for skills development than full ice scrimmages. They are fun and teach players how to skate/stick handle in tight corners. Why the coach would not utilize them shows how out of touch this clown really is. Along those lines, what credentials does the coach hold? I'm American, so I'm not up to speed on Canadian coaching credentials for that level. However, I do remember going through a USA Hockey coaching seminar for that level & nothing of what you described was mentioned as a preferred training method. It sounds to me that this guy is trying to move up in the hockey coaching ranks by building a power house Mite program. Only problem is, he's teaching skill sets that should only be tried at the Bantam & above levels.
I wouldn't get your boys out of the sport though. Can they go to a different league in your area? Maybe a different team/league will address some of these difficulties. I don't know how Hockey Canada is set up, but USA Hockey has a feature on its web site where you type in your zip code, & it spits out different leagues in your area. Anyway, good luck & let the coach know that a Stanley Cup won't be waiting for him at the end of the season. Just pissed off parents & bored kids....
You're experiencing the two worst forms of the sport at the same time: the over-competitive youth league, and the mercenary elite pro league. Neither is a representation of what the sport is supposed to be about -- and this also applies to soccer, basketball, football, etc.
I suggest taking in some high-level amateur or low-level pro games. Guys who are beyond the "helicopter parent" phase of life but are still fighting just to live the dream.
I really admire your open mind and clear determination of what is right and wrong. You seem to be what is RIGHT with the sport :) a really good example to others who just care about training their kids to be the next so-and-so. Respect to you sir.
You are totally right in regards to renting ice/backyard rink concept. Develop their root love for the game while learning some skills at the same time. Skating outside or fooling around is what keeps kids in the game, it's the essence of Canadiana. It's a real shame that the organized hockey in your area is poor, but it's not the same everywhere else. If you ever decide to move, perhaps 'scouting' the local house league could be a thing to do. Best of luck to you :)
He claims he got his idea from Hockey Canada's website which is bunk because I've scoured that website trying to find examples of his practices and I'm coming up empty.
The scary thing is his attitude is not uncommon in most parts of Canada. It's not enough to simply get kids to play hockey and like the sport, we're all trying to build the next Sidney Crosby.
Some days I feel like hanging a giant sign over the Arena entrance that reads "Your kid is not going to the NHL".
When I was in my 20's I heard a news story about a local baseball league that stopped keeping score and/or standings. At the time I thought this was terrible because we shouldn't shield our kids from the lessens that can be learned from losing.
But now that I'm a father, I know what they were getting at. It's not about protecting kids from losing, it's about protecting kids from parents and coaches who take winning so seriously, they stomp on the kids in order to have success.
This season I've seen the worst that can happen in minor hockey. It's why I always have to volunteer to coach or assist in coaching.
But thanks for the advice. I don't think I'll pull them from hockey. I want them to continue seeing the great things the sport can offer. I think I just have a really bad taste left in my mouth.
I'm going to look around and see what my options are. I'm still determined to stick it out with my home town.
I know some other Dad's that are always helping and share the same feelings that I have. So if I can convince them to help with a team next season, things could be better.
Thanks again for the compliment. Take care!
Winning = Fun
You are right about the minor hockey issues. Simply handle it better.
You talk to the guy and if he doesn't want to listen then you go above his head. Educate the other parent volunteers and band together so you have a collective voice.
Sticking your head in the sand for an entire season doesn't do anything for the kids. All it does is make you look silly for not doing anything about it when you knew that what was going on was wrong.
Small area games keep the game fun and they level the playing field. It allows more kids more opportunity to touch the puck and get involved in the games.
That is the goal of the tim bit program. To make hockey fun, involve as many kids as possible, and create a lifelong love of the game. The flip side is to make hockey suck and watch the kids quit in droves before they are teenagers.
We are pretty close to the same age so I am a bit confused by your statement here. I remember a different NHL too. When I was growing up the thuggery in the NHL was 50 times worse than it is today.
Think about guys like Dale and Tim Hunter, Marty McSorley, Chris Chelios, Dave Manson, Ulf Samuelsson, Bryan Marchment, Claude Lemieux....etc. They would all carve your eye right out of the socket at the drop of hat. Every one of those guys makes Matt Cooke look like the biggest ***** on the face of the earth and I didn't even include any of the absolute freaks who played in the 70's.
The game was different then and if you wanted to survive you learned to be aware of your surroundings. Just like a couple of prize fighters hear at the start of a fight, "..Protect yourself at all times."
Too many players today expect themselves to be protected by the rule book or the media or maybe even Air Canada chiming in with their bloody opinion. Hell Air Canada can't even run an airline without getting bailed out by the taxpayers yet they feel the right to chime in about how the NHL will be run? There is a pandemic out there, a pandemic of loud uninformed opinions.
People have been getting hurt playing hockey since the first time people started stick handling frozen horse turds. The only difference is that back in those days people thought it was interesting and they appreciated the game. Now adays everyone is a critic, "OMG! Could he have PERMANENT damage?," "This is an outrage!!, this must be stopped!" Blah, blah, blah.
The funny thing is this. My friends and I have debated every major hit that has been reviewed by the NHL in the last several years. My opinion has been the exact same as the NHL ruling in every case (except for Hjalmarsson's hit on Pominiville this year which I concede may be a bit of homerism on my part but it was careless at best not dirty in any way.)
Anyone that actually has any knowledge of the game and how it is played understands the things that happen on the ice, they understand what is intentional and what is a hockey play. The unfortunate thing is that the loudest voices are almost always the least informed.
Not so long ago you could run a bit of interference for your linemates on the ice. Not the type that could give someone a scoring opportunity, just the kind that could buy him a moment to move the puck out of the corner or dish it off with out getting run through the boards. You could put a small hook on a guys hip to take his balance away just enough to buy a millisecond for a team mate. A rule change has taken that aspect out of the game and while it has accomplished its goal and made the game faster it has also made it far more dangerous. Don't blame the players for this, they don't make the rules.
The game is faster than ever, the players are more skilled than ever and the races for the playoffs are more exciting than ever before.
Quit whining about hockey people. Love it or leave it.
What's even more disgusting is how several of the other volunteers along with about two-dozen parents also complained and still no changes are on the horizon.
Our attendance was down about 30% this year for Timbits and if what I'm hearing from the parents who approached me at year-end, I'd be surprised if our numbers didn't go down another 30-40%. That's probably the only thing that will force change.
The Timbit program is an absolute cash-cow for the board. 2 years ago it was estimated they earned between 15-20K from Timbits alone. But that was when we had nearly 100 kids in the program. This past year we had over 70. I'd be shocked if we had over 50 next season.
Regarding whining about hockey, I have decided to leave it. I haven't watched a full NHL game since December.
You're right that the game had higher degrees of violence in some area's back in the 80's and early 90's. The Dale Hunter incident comes to mind. Actually, several Hunter-family incidencts jump out.
However, watch a game from that era and note how players aren't imitating cannoballs every shift. There's hardly any big, thunderous hits. Guys actually use hitting as a way to separate man from puck, not head from body.
My biggest issue about the NHL today though is the dull manor of which it's played. Sure it's faster, but once you get over the blueline it turns into endless cycling while the defensive team plays the 'turtle-defense'.
Nearly every goal is from a rebound, deflection or screen - or basically, 4' around the crease.
There are no more sniper type goals that I remember seeing from guys like Mario, Yzerman, Clark, Lafontaine.
There were more odd-man rushes and breakaways in one game from 1987 than there are in the entire month of November today.
The game is far too defensive for my tastes. But again, I'm an NHL fan. I don't follow one team only. I just like good hockey. As a Wings fan, it's gotten nearly impossible to watch a Wild-Coyotes, or Panthers-Hurricanes or Ducks-Sharks game.
They're just too darn boring.
A game I watched a few months ago featuring the Caps and Coyotes was beyond horrific. After 20 minutes, the Caps had 6 scoring chances to the Coyotes 2. And to be honest, I couldn't remember one of those chances after the first period completed.
But to think that there were only 8 scoring chances after one period (that ended 0-0 BTW) is ridiculous.
That's because every quick rush up the ice was 3-on-3. And it usually went something like this.
Puck carrier rushes into zone, see's nothing and flips puck on net. Goalie gloves, whistle is blown and offensive team tries to win faceoff to fire one on net, crash net, hope for rebound. Wash-rinse-repeat.
If the offensive team lost the faceoff, every player got out of the zone immediately to get back. Only one forechecker went in.
This is not good hockey.
It speaks volumes that the best hockey played every year isn't in the NHL. I'll take a World Jr. game every day of the week. Even over playoff NHL hockey.
The game needs to be opened up. I'm no longer interested in it. So yes, I have left it.
I've been watching a lot more basketball, tennis and boxing this Fall/Winter. And now that baseball's started, I'll watch that too.
I might tune into a few Wings games during the postseason. But I'm basically done watching regular season NHL games.
I'm not sure what province you are in but Alberta has this http://www.hockey-alberta.ca/associa...?p=pond_hockey. It's hockey that isn't meant to be too serious.
My first reaction to your issues with minor hockey was to recommend you get involved but you have already said that you are considering being a head coach next year, good call. It seems that maybe getting involved with your association's executive may be a good idea as well. What kind of control freak do you have as a convener that he thinks it is up to him to dictate practice plans? What exactly does the head coach do then? In the association my son plays in and I coach in the executive chooses the head coach and then he is in charge of his team unless there are issues. As for the nutty parents, my feeling is that if you are playing house league they need to chill out but if you are signing up for rep hockey, a certain amount of competitiveness is to be expected. I don't mean shortening the bench for 7 year olds, excusing vicious hits or grinding kids down. Just an attitude that winning is an important goal, by no means the only one or the most important, but important none the less.
An instructor I had at a coaching clinic said something once that everybody involved should always keep in mind, "Minor hockey is not adult entertainment".
Sorry to hear that you ran into a brick wall with your minor hockey board. That is unfortunate.
I coached both Tim-Bits and a Tyke select team this year. Our Tim-Bits team was one of 6 we had 19 kids with one half ice practice and one game every week.
We ran practices with 6 or 7 minute stations with about 6 kids per station. Our goal was that during practice we wanted at least 50% of the time to be pure fun for the kids. We played lots of freeze tag and shot tennis balls at the kids as they tried to skate cross ice without being hit, all sorts of relays and races. We hooted and hollered, yelled and screamed (in fun). The kids will learn extremely fast if you make it fun.
Attendance at both practices and games was nearly 100% all year on our team while other teams really struggled with getting kids out.
It really is not hard to teach kids hockey by allowing them to have fun.
Once again, sorry for the year you had but fight for change. If you won't, who will?
Regarding starting to watch some of the other major sports (basketball/baseball in particular - I can't comment on tennis or boxing), believe me when I say that you are definitely in a "grass is greener on the other side" mentality right now. You've become jaded by hockey, and turning to these other sports only seems like the thing to do because you're simply not as familiar with the problems that those sports also have at the major level, and certainly you will have the chance to run into the exact same problems you've experienced in hockey's youth system, as well. There is no holy grail sport where everything is fair and fun at all times.
I loved hockey at all the levels I played at as a kid, and I continue to love hockey now in beer league. Find a good house league for your kids and a good beer league for yourself and I'm sure you can all re-discover the love, if you want to.
As for the NHL, I've been following it closely since the mid 90s and to me the game is as exciting as its ever been. I don't agree that it's all garbage goals, going to the net to screen the goalie and chip in rebounds has always been a great strategy at all levels of hockey, but I would say the majority of goals in the NHL are scored on nice shots from the slot/point.
Thinking over this thread last night, I realized that you're running into the ill effects of over-coaching at both extremes.
That being said, and as someone who has also recently started playing hockey as an adult middle-aged beginner (eek!) the NHL definitely needs to alter some things:
1-increase the rink size to at least the Olympic 200 x 100', maybe bigger.
2-get fighting out of the game, period. With 2 small kids, it is near impossible to explain to them how fighting is NOT an option in 99% of the rest of situations in life - but in hockey it is somehow excusable.
If the NHL added more refs on the ice, and video cameras, there would be less nonsense going on that needed to be "policed." The NBA dealt with the lack of a call with the Robert Parrish/Laimbeer punch by adding a 3rd ref - why can't the NHL?
I cannot speak to the OPs issues with kids' levels, as mine have not played hockey nor intend to, but at the pro level, the NHL should consolidate franchises, plus a few other items in addition to the 2 i mentioned above, but do not want to hijack the thread...
That's precisely what I argued with the entire year. None of the practices were fun at all. We tried to make sure at least 1 of the stations was entertaining. It was a joke.
By the end, because none of us volunteers were actually allowed to 'coach' our team, we stopped coming out with any regularity. 50% of our coaches would skip, as would the kids.
One parent told me that our practice night was the least favorite hour of his week. Many others agreed.
Yet, despite telling the convener this, he refused to change.
Many of us wanted to simply quit. But all of us felt that the kids would suffer then so we figured we'd finish the year. Several times, we'd toss his practice plan out the door and just deal with the consequences afterward (one time he actually stormed onto the ice and started berating one of the volunteers for changing his plan. I'm surprised the volunteer was able to keep a cool head and not slug him. Thankfully, he kept his temper in check and kindly told him to buzz-off).
For the volunteers that have decided to keep their kids in this towns program next year, all of them have decided not to help. The convener was already scrambling to find help so if everyone quits, that'll send a loud message.
We're hoping with lower registration numbers, and no volunteers, the board/convener will be forced to listen and change how things are run.
Like Tarheelhockey said "Thinking over this thread last night, I realized that you're running into the ill effects of over-coaching at both extremes.". That's completely true.
It's a shame when adults can destroy something that's so pure. And for what? Because they saw a Tim Hortons commercial with Crosby scoring a goal as a 4-year-old. Suddenly, they want that too. Enough to ruin the experience for everyone.
I'm gong to try and stay in the process and rattle enough chains to get change. I refuse to volunteer both my time and money next season to this garbage program. And I know they'll be asking me and the others to help. Because there is quite literally, almost nobody else willing to help.
So we hope that we have some leverage to change things.
Again, while I'd prefer at least one REAL game per week, I'd be willing to sacrifice games in the first half of the season if the practice plans were fun and engaging.
The few times we played Freeze-tag or British Bulldog the kids absolutely loved it.
So if we can make the drills more intuned with their skill and age level, it would work.
It's just too bad that the morons who are way too obsessed with hockey are the ones who gain the positions they do.
madmutter, I've read about that me and a friend are actually looking into instituting something similar in our area. Thanks!
Unless the kid has a behavioral disability, simply saying "NHL players are allowed do that, but you aren't" is sufficient.
Is your hockey association run by the town, or is it a private non-profit? It doesn't matter, but one path is to start yourself a new league. You be on the board and find like minded parents to join you. Be the executive and the convenor. It'll take a couple years to build up your numbers, but people will come. The city will have to allot you ice time.... no different than if a girls only league started up. Separate yourselves from the other league.... go with the "no scorekeeping, no score clock" method for games, or something like that. If you can't get a Timmies sponsorship, approach another company.
No sense crushing your skull by hitting it against a brick wall. Go around the wall. It'll eventually fall down due to neglect.
You don't hate hockey - you hate the values in your current hockey environment.
Get together with some like-minded parents, rent the ice for an hour, and let your kids go out and have some fun. It may take a little while for them to realize they are allowed to, after the tight rules they have been under. But kids bounce back quick.
I don't really agree with the lack of score keeping or what ever, but the practices your younger one is at really sounds like they suck LOL. I started playing around age 6 or so, I remember my first coach just made us do simple skating drills like circles or line to line just to develop a bit then we would scrimmage...it was the best.
Can you report this whole situation to someone in Hockey Canada? I don't know what kind of recourse they have, but there's got to be some way to get word up the chain. What you're describing goes 100% against what USA Hockey (and I imagine Hockey Canada) is trying to do with their youth programs.
I can't think of a better way to teach skating than to spend some time on form and function, and then say, "Now chase each other."
Your convener is a moron, but more importantly, he's actively working to cripple your program, and should be held accountable (by HC) if at all possible.
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