by Craig Funston
By the time you read this, Canada’s national winter sport (represented, in part, by the National Hockey League), will be in full swing. Most of Canada’s hockey addiction goes well beyond boy millionaires skating with a piece of wood between their hands, chasing a rubber puck-thing, but it’s a good place to start.
Hockey season, in this configuration, generally runs from early October through to the end of June, from training camp to the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs—then on to the start of free agency. Is it me, or is the season getting longer and longer?
The start-up of the hockey season is very much like the first day or week of school: fresh start, high hopes, and strong motivation. And then with the hockey players, there is always that chance to kiss Lord Stanley’s mug—the cup, of course, not his face.
It is hard to see the NHL as a reflection of Canada’s national winter sport any longer, when so many
of the teams are made up of more than just Canadians. There are seemingly just as many Americans and Europeans as there are Canadians playing. The first five picks in the draft of 2016 is a case in point.
I even heard that an Australian was trying to make one of the teams this year. Word has it that every time he threw his stick away it kept on coming back.
I was not raised with television, so watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night was not a weekly ritual for me. I wish it had been, but somehow I survived to write about it. However, as an indirect result, I will watch any game I can get my eyes on. That could even include a Flames-Blue Jackets game
I have never played ice hockey, though I can hold my own when it comes to floor hockey and table hockey, if that’s worth anything. I am more of a fan of the sport than anything else.
Owing to where I live, I support the Lethbridge Hurricanes over these past few years. When I first started following them, they were the WHL’s version of the Calgary Flames. It’s been fascinating to see their mercurial rise to the top in just two short years. Now if we could just clone their success and inject the Vancouver Canucks with it…
As I have stated before in this space, if I were involved in hockey at any level, it would be in management of some sort, possibly as an assistant general manager. I may not be good at passing the puck, but I think I would be good at passing the buck.
One thing that alarms me, though, is the excessive salaries many of these players—especially the young ones—are getting. I know they’re not earning as much as baseball or basketball players, but it’s too much for their own good.
There is no better time than now to be a professional hockey player. And no one is denying that they should take whatever they can whenever they can. Most players have a short shelf life (ie., play for only a few years), unless your name rhymes with Doan or Jagr.
Salary excesses notwithstanding, like every red-blooded Canadian, I love this game. It is the greatest sport on earth. And it has Canadiana written all over it. It strikes that over the years kids from many nooks and crannies throughout the Dominion have ended up in professional hockey, at one level or another. That’s something we can’t say about any other professional sport.
Like the first day of school, hockey players start on the same page (= even in the standings), there’s no real playground bully…yet (= enforcer), there are regular breaks (= intermissions), and everyone is planning to move on to the next grade (= make the playoffs).
However, the comparison falls a little short in one definite area: One set of “students” is a whole lot richer than the other.