The Sorry State Of NHL Hockey

By Kennedy Jones

(TORONTO, ON) – So the National Hockey League lock-out has ended. What a shame. I would have preferred a quiet hockey year without an incessant parade of meaningless games, hyped up if not clownish commentators, and simply boring hockey filling the airwaves like some worker bee buzz. NHL hockey became meaningless for me many years ago. I can’t even bother to watch the Stanley Cup finals anymore as it’s just the same old same old, which might have been interesting if it ended in April instead of June.

How much hockey can the public endure? I suppose enough to pay both owners and players enough to enjoy a regal lifestyle. And the advertisements so full of wholesome sentiments, doughnuts and coffee and puritanical and mythical hockey culture laced with copious amounts of automobile advertisements! Cars, coffee, hockey and clowns as the sum total of Canada? Can’t say I disagree with this approach in the face of primetime murder, crime and bloody violence whether it be celebrity worship, dancing, judging, or police drama that permeates television.

I had the distinct displeasure of attending the season opener Toronto Maple Leafs game in Toronto on January 21, 2013. The Leafs, as usual, fell to the Buffalo Sabres. Why do I say displeasure? It is a bit of a long story but it rather starts with the new rousing marketing contrived slogan of the Leafs, “The Passion that Unites Us All.”

Does this mindless sloganeering accomplish anything more than to embarrass its creators?

I was born and raised in Montreal and played a huge amount of hockey and had the pleasure of winning a City of Montreal bantam hockey championship with my team. And if you have any doubts about my credibility to diss or praise hockey, I have coached hockey for over a decade. I understand winning. I understand losing. I understand what hockey was and what it has evolved into.

I also had one of those weird experiences after returning home and turning on the television, just before hitting the sack, after the Leaf’s home opener. As I turned on the television there was an advertisement playing, but not paying attention to it, all I heard was something to the effect that hockey was back, and as they were pasted into the advertisement, the crowd cheers sounded like crazed militaristic cheers of a bygone era. Listen carefully if you have ever heard clips from militaries past and you’ll click in to my radio wave length. This little occurrence spooked me!

Was it too much crowd manipulation at the Air Canada Centre on opening night? Was it the militaristic and patriotic theme of the “off-ice” entertainment very purposely selected by the little men in black?

Attending the Leaf’s opening season game leads one to make a few conclusions.

Hockey is corrupted by militarism and two bit nationalism. At the game a puck is dropped from space by a Canadian “commander” and all sorts of creaky Leaf veterans are involved in the “cute” idea to the roars of the crowd. The crowd is introduced to the first Canadian Armed Forces female pilot of some particular type of aircraft and roars in appreciation. Then an announcement is made about some Leaf player leading the charge for Canadian soldiers.

Luke’s Troops offers tickets to home Leaf games to Canadian Armed Forces personnel. How cheap and self-serving can patriotism get? Why would the Canadian Armed Forces participate in such a programme!

And then the idiotic practice of playing national anthems exacerbated by a huge Canadian flag being passed around by the crowd. Of course let’s not forget a huge Scottish Highland band starting the pre-game show. Yes I am proud to be Canadian but resent being manipulated by cheap patriotism. Who dreamt up the military element of this patriotic extravaganza? Obviously it was well planned and thought to be pleasing to the hockey masses. This was no random set of events but deliberately planned and produced.

Hockey is corrupted by theatrical violence not to mention contrived and flamboyant personalities. There is an art to a good clean check, as violent as it may be. However there is no art to the swinging fist goonery displayed at the Leaf game. I love a good crushing check but I loathe the theatrical violence and detest even more the roars of the Roman Forum crowd shouting for more blood. I sit in my seat and cringe. Is this all planned like some wrestling match or crazed political rally?

When I played and coached hockey this violence was never accepted and a game misconduct was a rule. However each hockey team seems to have a “goon” or enforcer. In between whistles at the Leafs game I seem to recall a clip on the “big screen” featuring violent acts and violent bad temper incidents. The crowd loved it! Corruption feeds on corruption.

Hockey is corrupted by rampant commercialism. Every square inch of the boards is plastered with advertisements. The hunger for revenue dictates that some of these advertisements are actually replaced during periods. Whatever happened to clean white boards? God Bless coffee peddlers and various other enterprises for saving hockey amongst our youth. I am sure they will soon be coffee drinking customers! Can I have some microbrew beer or must I drink sour mass produced swill in some exclusive distribution contract?

Hockey is boring. Too many games. Too many teams. Too long of a season. Too little talent.

Hockey in Toronto has lost reality with pricing of tickets and concessions. How can a family afford to attend hockey games in Toronto? My platinum section ticket was $212. Just imagine a family of 4 attending at that price!

Contests abound at games always dominated by some sponsor. At the Leafs game it was a bunch of Pizza Pizza sponsored actors skating around in goalie equipment between the second and third period knocking each other down. Geez how low do you think my intelligence is?

Good hockey has been replaced by an entertaining show and the players may have a starring role but they are simply a part of the show!

The future of hockey is bright. Despite a lockout the fans were just lapping everything up. Treat your fans like crap, issue an apology and crocodile tears and go on. I do not cry for the owners and players but I do for the thousands in the service industry devastated by the latest labour problems.

Maple Leafs fans are used to suffering humiliation. Harold Ballard had it right. No need to spend to create a winning team if you don’t have to.

The only hockey game I will go to is a free one. I am not paying for two bit hockey and third rate patriotism.

Now before I sign out let’s go back to the fighting and blood lust rampant at the Air Canada Centre let alone the screams of “You dirty little faggot” coming from the platinum section. At that point I felt like leaving had it not been for the happy lady beside me with her husband and two children. A beer for each period and a Tim Horton’s coffee for the third along with popcorn and bliss. Obviously as a mean sour old bastard I have missed something.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.

1 Comment on "The Sorry State Of NHL Hockey"

  1. The players want more money and the owners want to make a bigger profit, who will pay for their raises the fans. Hockey is not the same as it was in the old days time has changed unfortunately for the worse. There are to many teams the quality of hockey has dropped, the hockey association is going out of the country for hockey players. The bottom line is the fans should have protested and boycot hockey for the rest of the year, hit them were it hurts in their pocket book.

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