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08-10-2012, 06:36 PM
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Back to the Future

Originally Posted by overpass View Post
For my part, Canadian hockey is what I know and what I am interested in. I'm sure Jagr, Forsberg, Modano, and others spent their share of time on the rink. If you have links or quotes, I'm willing to be educated.

My understanding has always been that the Russians in particular, in the old Soviet Union, came from a systematic player selection and training program starting at a young age, not from a culture of outdoor hockey. I could be wrong here - I'm really not familiar with Russian hockey. But in any case it's a question of development more than the talent pool.

It seems to me that since approximately 1925 or so, hockey has enjoyed every advantage it has today in Canada. It has been the number one winter activity, there hasn't been any stigma about playing professional sports, the money has been better than any career, and boys have dreamed of growing up to play in the NHL for the Stanley Cup. From that point on you see very few hockey players passing on the NHL, and the vast majority of Canadian athletes were playing hockey (although more in some areas than others.)

I don't mean to dismiss your viewpoint, I just think that a lot of these "rational" talent pool arguments ignore valuable parts of hockey's tradition. I really think that there has been a major decline in the Canadian outdoor hockey tradition in my memory (the last 20 years or so), which has gone hand in hand with the disappearance of unsupervised and unstructured play for children. I think most Canadian boys have lost the opportunities to put in thousands of hours on the rink that previous generations had, and I think that has a cost in skill, creativity, and hockey sense that can't be taught. The rise in organized hockey schools and more resources for coaches has gone hand in hand with the decline in unorganized play, and has been able to coach the ordinary player to a certain standard, but I don't know if it develops extraordinary players as well.

I know it's hard to quantify these in a talent pool discussion, but I think these points need to be raised. It's far from certain that today's hockey culture and general culture in society will ever develop another Wayne Gretzky.
Few comments, some encouraging.

Post WWI saw the construction of "Memorial" arenas in certain cities to accommodate hockey plus other activities. Often part of a fairgrounds setting.

The outdoor rinks are making a comeback. The Canadiens have sponsored a few in the GMA recently and the various kits that are avaiable facilitate the backyard rink.

Finally public and mainly private schools are getting into hockey big time at the elementary and secondary levels. This improves coaching since qualified educators that are age specialists for the various hockey age groups and positions are involved. Also there is a tremendous economy of time since youngsters and coaches combine travel time into one daily trip. School time and hockey time requires one return trip from home. Previously this required two distinct trips. Finally the dead time in the vast majority of arenas, M-F from 8AM - 4PM gets used, so facilities are optimized.

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