Was hockey better in the 80s?
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11-12-2012, 11:05 PM
Join Date: Jun 2010
Originally Posted by
I agree that the product was probably more entertaining but disagree with most of the reasons given.
The sport was more ‘exciting’ in the 1980s because :
a) defensive systems were absolutely terrible relative to today
Too much overlap for this to be a reason. Plenty of coaches coached successfully in the 80s, 90s, even 2000s.
I think the emphasis changed but not the ability of the best coaches so much.
You'll have a hard time convincing me that Scotty Bowman was a better defensive coach in 2002 than he was in 1992 or whatever. But coaches have to work with what they have and in the environment they are in too.
I do agree that today teams are practically all defense first now, and coaches are much more strict enforcing it, which results in a lot of boring chippy hockey, though.
b) players took two-minute shifts for most of the early part of the decade – leading to more tired players moving more slowly when they didn’t have the puck.
True player shifts were longer primarily in the early 80s. They shortened quite a bit by the later 80s so again.. so I am not sure how this is a good reason.
c) there was a bigger gap between the best and the worst players, especially on defense
I think this is primarily a change in how teams are assembled now.
In the 80s teams often had scoring depth. Now they have players who can skate and check and not much else.
Secondly I don't think the drop off is especially on defense. I think it is just more noticeable in a defenseman.
d) goalies absolutely stunk relative to today
I take a real issue with this.. goalies didn't stink. They just played a reactive style with much smaller and heavier equipment.
Goalies today have to master a technique that gives them a big edge over the goalies of the past in that they can often just let the puck hit them with little chance of a shooter beating them.
I give them full credit for playing the odds (lets face it, its smart and effective!) but I do believe that equipment advances helped a lot of that change.
I don’t buy that the players in the 1980s (Gretzky excepted) were more skilled, or more creative, or more daring, or that there were more ‘generational talents’ at that point.
You're going to have a hard time convincing me that 80s Gretzky, Lemieux, Bourque and Coffey for an example aren't better than any player similar player playing today.
There was just a perfect storm whereby talented players in that era had far more space and time to make plays and make the most of their talent relative to today.
I agree but I think that it has to do with how players developed in that generation.
They had more access to ice. More free time and less distractions.
In 2012 every defending player is skating 100% for 45-second shifts, matchups are optimized, and players are trained on defensive systems pretty much from childhood. You need space and time to be creative, and star players today just don’t have much of either. Touch the puck, and you’re being hounded immediately.
That training on defensive systems pretty much from childhood is a big factor in many of us believing that players today are generally less creative.
Back when we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to school, people played hockey for fun. You tend to play a lot more when it is fun, and that ends up being an awful lot of creative practice.
Having said all that, there’s also quite a bit of nostalgia clouding perception of that time. When you actually watch games from 1985, the pace looks really slow compared to today, hitting is *way* down, and of course the goalies are terrible. Much of the inflated scoring and ‘excitement’ of fire-wagon hockey came from the fact that goalies were letting in so many routine shots. Normalize save percentages, and scoring probably wouldn’t be that much different from today.
The pace may look slower but that is because there is actually flow to the game at times instead of broken plays and chip outs and chip ins.
Top players from 1985 could skate with the top players from today quite easily. Particularly with lighter and better equipment.
I disagree again that the goalies were terrible. They were just different. You get in net with the pads they had in 1985 and stand in front of a few Al MacInnis slapshots and then come back here and tell me how terrible they were.
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