The Best Year Ever Without Winning

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Oldest boy (17) played with a new club, bringing with him 6 others from his former club, lost more than they won and had one of the best year’s of hockey in a while.

In the playoffs they lost 2 straight to be eliminated quickly, but it didn’t really bother them that much.  It was a fun team to watch with ups and downs.  The important thing is that he had fun, unlike the previous season.  That is the only reason to play hockey or any sport: to look back and say “it was a good year with a good bunch of guys”.

Well done, gentlemen, well done!

In the End, Everthing Will Be Alright…If it’s Not Alright, it’s Not the End.

This past week I had the privilege of trying to right a wrong.  Trying to give a kid a break. I say “trying” because, as you may have quickly deduced, I was unsuccessful in the end.  However this is also a story about how making an effort can make a difference as well.

hand-upIt all begins at the end.  At the end of a rather strange Bantam mid tier hockey game, one of our players fell in front of the opposing bench.  Upon his recovery words were exchanged and the player turned, and made a rude gesture.   A typical response from a typical 15 year old.  Now the story gets some traction.

The referee had heard the words exchanged and then saw the “gesture” and quickly assessed the player a “Gross Misconduct” under Hockey Canada Rule 4.7b which states, “A Gross Misconduct penalty shall be assessed any player or team official who conducts herself in such a manner as to make a travesty of the game.” (p.57 Hockey Canada 2012-2014 Official Case/Rule Book).  For the uninitiated and to give you a sense of the severity of a Gross Misconduct, the previous penalty listed is 4.6 “Game Ejection/Game Misconduct Penalties” and the next penalty listed is 4.8 “Match Penalties”, in which players are immediately sent to the dressing room and are not permitted to take part any further games until their case has been dealt with by the President of the Local Hockey Canada Chapter.  You really have to mess up to do that…like hit a referee or linesman…use your equipment as a weapon or something crazy like dance around ignoring everyone yelling.

So let’s go back for a bit.  Players who are on the same team as the penalized player heard specific racial slurs and others regarding his sexual orientation.  The referee obviously did not hear what was said but saw the “gesture” and thought that it was directed towards him and assessed the penalty.

Watching the game progress it was not the finest refereeing job but at the same time no one is perfect and that’s just fine.

So here’s where I stumble in to the mix.  After reading the game sheet and the required referee report (one always accompanies the sheet when a misconduct is assessed) and speaking with other players on the ice, the penalty assessed was wrong.  Mounting my trusty steed, I ventured out to into the world of Edmonton Minor Hockey and the Referee Committee.  I talked with two current referees and they both said a Gross Misconduct is REALLY bad and that it would be at least a 3 game suspension, possibly more.  Based on that conversation and the one with the players, an unsportsmanlike misconduct is reasonable.  He reacted to the words as any teenager would, like he’s 10 feet tall and bullet proof.  He flipped off, if you will, the other team, not the official.

I looked up how to lodge a complaint.  Game number, date, arena, opponent, division and tier.  Then, so the process goes, the complaint CANNOT come from a coach, player, manager, parent or spectator.  It can ONLY come from the Club level.  The coach was fully behind supporting the player.  The Division and Club President was behind it, too.  In the end however, it was decided that history was against us.  No complaint would ever over turn a referee decision.  Ever.  It may become a study case for Hockey Edmonton or Hockey Alberta, but the assessment will never be overturned.  The player was assessed a  two game suspension (a lot less than I thought it would be).

Why can’t we get referee calls overturned?  Especially major penalties that assess multiple game suspensions.  These people, teenagers in many cases, are human and are prone to the same mistakes you and I make – no rocks flying from my glass house.

My windmill, I guess.    If only the story ended there.

The coach discovered the opposing team, who uttered the “words” that encouraged the “gesture”, was also not that far off the Hockey Edmonton and Hockey Alberta radar.  That team had gained such a notorious reputation that it was determined that for every misconduct assessed a player, the coach would receive two.  What could you possibly do to get that type of penalty?  There is an explanation.

The coach had been overheard telling his player to “finish the check and hit to hurt”.  It was also determined that the coach would target better players on other teams to hit and hopefully injure.  Where does this come from?

Let’s try to really boil this down: The tier is so far down that odds of a player becoming a professional player (any league or level) are higher than winning the lottery (any lottery any level).  The coaches won’t be headed to a “higher” level of coaching anytime soon.  What drives a person to specifically tell a player to target and injure another player?  To what end?  How can you be proud of winning with those tactics?  This is supposed to be ‘get out there skate, play and sweat while having fun’  like all other sports that cater to the majority of athletes.

In the end, I guess, everything will be all right.  And if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.

What’s that?  It’s not the end ?  Playoffs start this weekend?  Maybe I won’t stable the steed just yet.

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Where Legends Begin: The 50th Edmonton Minor Hockey Week

When it began, I’m sure the organizers never thought it would become this big or, for that matter, where legends would begin.

The Quikcard Minor Hockey Week, as it is known today began in 1963 and is an annual minor hockey tournament in the city of Edmonton. In 2009 it held the Guinness Book of Worlds Record for World’s Largest Hockey Tournament.

I first played in it in 1971 and it wasn’t until 73 that the size of the tournament really hit home.  I remember walking down the hall way outside Coronation Arena and seeing this massive poster with every single Mite A team hand written down the middle in a single column.  Then spreading out on either side was a spider web of lines with Consolation written above the left side and Championship on the right.  Looking back it was very simple.  You win, you keep to the right, lose go to the left.  Minimum two games. The system really hasn’t changed in 50 years.

Many professionals have played in it including Mark Messier, Jay Bouwemeister, Kelly Hrudey and many others throughout the years and generations.

Today, they’ve tiered teams into divisions within the age groups Novice, Atom, Peewee, Bantam and Midget, boys and girls teams excluding elite AA and AAA levels.  You end up playing against the same teams you’ve been playing against in the last 6 games, also know as the second of three rounds of seasonal play.  Something happens to a lot of teams entering the tournament.  One or two teams always come out of nowhere to win a game or two they never really had any business being in.  They reach down from somewhere and pull out an amazing feat of athletic ability and team play.  They play at a level no parent or opponent has ever seen.  They are amazed at their own success.  They are hungry for the next game, the next period, the next shift, the next face off.  It’s game time.  Just win.

There is no “thanks for participating”.  You can lose your first game and you’ll get a second game, but that’s it.  Loser go home.  Win and you’re in.

Tonight is the first of two semi final games that I will witness in the next four days.  Each team has played games that have left parents amazed at their skill and determination.  It is really fun to watch.  Not that the regular season or other tournaments aren’t but for some reason this….this is Minor Hockey Week.  Fathers and sons can tell stories of each others moments and memories, wins and losses.  It is amazing the similarities generations apart yet in the same tournament.  This is fun.

Only once in 18 tries has either  of my sons won the Gold.  More than a few silvers between the two of them.  I never got that close.  That’s OK, I remember making to the fourth round, one or two wins from playing in the Edmonton Gardens…where the Alberta Oilers play!  That’s right, the Alberta Oilers of the World Hockey Association, a year before they became the Edmonton Oilers.  That’s the stuff of legends.

During the one Gold medal win, the game went to over time.  Over time is one minute periods played in succession and each team takes  one player off until it is one player and one goalie on either side for six minutes.  This game  went to one on one.  It was epic in that it went down to less than two minutes of battling back and forth.  Do we pull the goalie for the extra attacker…or not?  So exciting and finally: GOAL!  We won…er his team won.  He won the Gold.  That’s the stuff of legends.

Tonight we came up short and the better team this night will go on to battle for Gold on the weekend.  Friday night is the next opportunity for this family, we’ll be there and I can’t wait.

Because that’s what memories are made of and where legends begin.  I love Quikcard Edmonton Minor Hockey Week.

The Real Hockey Night in Canada

The NHL has really shot themselves in the foot.  In a recent poll 52% of Canadians don’t care anymore about the lockout.  Now to put that into perspective, if it truely was half of all Canadians, that would only account for 5% of all Americans.  I suspect the fan base is actually larger than that but let’s look at their alternatives: In hockey crazy Minnesota, they have the NFL and NBA to suck the void.  More importantly in Tampa Bay, where just before the last lock out they won the Cup, they not only live in a market that doesn’t care about hockey, they have NFL and NFL calibre college football teams.  It ‘s time to get out of Dodge…along with Dallas, Tampa, Florida, San Jose and anywhere else hockey ranks below bowling.  Even L.A. has to be considered keeping in mind they are the reigning Stanley Cup Champion.

So where is hockey?

The World Junior Hockey Championships start on Dec 26 in Eastern Russia.  All junior leagues carry on.  All midget aged leagues play and below are showing up for practices and games.

Case in point: South West Zone Oil Kings Team 530 & 532 are playing a fun 4 on 4 game at Kinsmen Arena.  Nearly every kid showed up on this  blowing snow -30C night.  Its fun.  A lot of the boys know each otheri from previous seasons.  Score doesn’t matter.

This is the real hockey night in Canada.  Such an iconic brand in Canada, I suspect the vast majority of Canadians can identify it.  Yet it represents professional hockey.  Its time we took it back. 

Hockey Night in Canada is about the novice game at Glengarry Arena in Edmonton as it is about the bantam tilt in Brandon’s Keystone Centre or Salmon Arm’s Memorial Arena. 

This is the real Hockey Night in Canada and it is about the game and most importantly it is about the kids.

Reporting from the Kinsmen Twin Arenas in South Edmonton…

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Back on the Road…Again

With a full steam ahead I have begun the road work to run a half marathon.  My goal is to complete the February 24th Hypothermic Half Marathon, right here in little ‘River City’.  It has only been one week.  Yes, the temperature is not what I would call ‘ideal’ for beginning to train for a 13+ mile run.  No, I have not lost my mind.

Dexter blocking the path in his playground…he hates to run with people.

So far the regimen is quite simple: Up at 5 am for a quick breaky and out the door at 5:45 for a half hour run every other day.  A rest day and cross train day are in between and a long run on weekends.  The seventh day is for an easy run.

So far so good.  Yesterday was the coldest I have run in since 1994 when I ran at -20 with a prairie wind whipping me on an out and back of an 8km run down a correction road near Barrhead, Alberta.  Training for the first of 6 Kananaskis 100 Relay races.

Running is good.  Bundling up is essential.  I am still getting used to how much to wear.  So far I have erred on the side of too much.  4 layers up top on Monday became 3 on Wednesday.  Lower body is good with two: Old fashioned “shredded wheat” long johns and newer nylon track pants.

Tonight is cross training with hockey for an hour and half followed by a day of rest and Saturday’s long run.  Long as in 5 to 10 minutes longer than the first two runs of 30 minutes.  We’ll see.

The Fallout

So what happened to all those we kids left behind?  More than likely they’re happily playing for whomever.  They will go to practice, skate hard, listen to the coach, spend too much time getting undressed and go home.  They will show up for games, play their position, work hard and go home.  Then there’s time for everything else…school, social activities and, of course, girls (or boys).

So what’s really changed?

All artistry begins with a blank sheet…

They, both my boys – different teams and different clubs – are really happy.  They’re playing with their friends.  They’ve made new ones.  They’re playing on teams that want to compete.  Most important: They’re having FUN.  Imagine that, kids just playing for fun? Will no parent or adult in Hockey Edmonton/Alberta/Canada intervene?

Still, the best part is that the exodus was instigated by the players themselves.  The kids that stayed I’m sure are having fun.  A case for the contrary, unfortunately, was relayed to me by a Dad who’s midget aged boy still plays for K of C.  Things are not so good.  There’s personality conflicts and in- fighting.  He, the player’ s dad, says the boy would move down to fit in rather than stay.  He hasn’t left yet but sounds like he might.  I don’t believe he is the only one.

The “Tier-ing” could actually be part of the problem.  Yes the level of play on paper is equal; the ages and years of experience are also considered.  However, I submit, if it were back to “who ever shows up also plays” you would have an unbalanced team in terms of skill but you would also have the hierarchy that exists today in all organizations. The bottom players improve because they have to try to keep up.  The skilled players have to lead.  Everyone has a role that really extends beyond the team and into the community.  A good team will show the lessor skilled players how to lead and the skilled players how to mentor and be a better person.   The hockey may not be as exciting but we are talking about the kids who just want to play and not become part of the “machine”.  Those elite players are driven, focused and inspired to play a game they are very good at.  Many house league players have the same if not better skills, what they lack is between the ears – and count your lucky stars.

But that’s another article, isn’t it.

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The Waiting

Sometimes you are so busy you just go from one place to another without even knowing.  Then there are times you have to wait for things.  I hate to wait…be patient.  I have trouble with that.  I want to do things (that I want to do) right away.  Otherwise I’m not patient, I am procrastinating.

I have discovered that I actually have a disability. It is called a speed processing issue. My compensation is to try and do everything right away before I forget what it was I was supposed to do. It’s not as crazy as you’d think. It just looks that way.

There are days it feels like that.

Learning disabilities can be assessed, diagnosed and addressed. Cured? Good question.

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A New Hope

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Colin D, Ryan M, Rylie M, Kyle O, and Nick R warm up for their first skate away from Knights of Columbus.

With the NHL lockout now on, most parents are focused on their own off spring getting on the ice.  In fact, most parents don’t care about pro hockey players or their bosses.

This is where hope springs eternal.  They, our kids, don’t have the luxury of ‘wait til next year’ or ‘we’ll be happy to make the playoffs’.  They have one chance to win it all.  Tournaments, Minor Hockey Week, EMHA playoffs or just more games than they lose.  Everything is on the table.  You see, each season it is a new team: Coaches; team mates; Opponents.  Really, there is no next year.   Sure some kids play together for a few seasons but it is rare to have players together for more than 2 seasons.

Hockey at this level is about the kids, no matter how much.parents try to wreck it. Today both my Bantam age and Midget age boys began their time with two different clubs. More or less a change of scenery than anything but also to escape the politics of being in the same club for eight and nine seasons respectively. It is like a new lease. Same game, different players. Except where the Modget age player is concerned where a total of ten or eleven players all left the same club to join the same club. Wonder why?

Parents? Naaaaa.

There is hope that things will be different this season…starting with a new hope.

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Sunday Night At Bingo

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The hall before the madness. Before the dreams and hopes of dabber owners are dashed. Before the K of C Sabres Hockey program gives me a credit towards this year’s fees. -What would the world be without an escape from the hum drum life of wake-work-sleep-repeat?

On this night we paid out over $6000 in prizing over 2 sessions.  Individual payouts ranged from $20 a game up to $110 a game…never mind if you had a double or a triple card!  Then there’s “balls”.  Everyone loves “Ball”.  Greasy Balls, Hot Balls, Whiskey Balls…they’re big.  The payout at least: $100 to $1000.

You can do well at Bingo but let’s face it, it’s a gambling game of chance.  There is little skill involved especially with the electronic “Digi 2” machine where you simply press a button and your cards are maked automatically.

And they show up every night.

2012-13 TNH Free Agency

Once again I have been passed up by not only the NHL but now the TNH.  And for that matter, the Bantam draft, the WHL draft..everyone.  But I was able to confirm my participation in the Thursday Night Hockey, once again.  This year there are some rule changes.  Specifically: No Slapshots.  Just when I thought I had one.  Hot dog!  Oh well, wrist-shots rule!

I guess we’re just getting  a little long in the tooth, except “Doc” of course, our resident non-resident who never grows old despite being 60 (?)!  Time to relax and enjoy the game that defines this nation, like it or not. 

I imagine it will be sometime in October when the cash call will come and the ice will be ready.  Then, once more into the breach they call “The Arena”