In 13 years as Editor-in-Chief of The Hockey News, I’ve made a ton of suggestions on how to improve the game. You’d almost think I didn’t like it.
The truth is, I feel it’s part of my job to help stimulate conversation and debate. While hockey is still pretty darned fantastic, nothing is perfect.
What follows is a list of various things I’ve suggested, conceived, advocated or supported during my baker’s dozen years in my ivory tower.
Hockey is entering a new ice age, and how the community deals with it could have a significant bearing on the evolution of the game. Climate change may not affect where we can put an indoor rink, even in the warmest climes, but it’s having a profound impact outdoors, where the game was born and its mystique still lies.
Today, Torontonians get about 60 days of outdoor skating a year. So do those in Montreal. That’s two months to play keep away with your siblings, pretending to be various members of the Staal family out on a sod farm in Thunder Bay. Or maybe you and your buddy are John Tavares and Sam Gagner, who used to skate in Gagner’s backyard so often the pizza delivery guy knew to bypass the house and head straight to the homemade rink. Either way, play hard now, because those days are dwindling.
This shouldn’t come as a newsflash. In 2012, members of McGill University’s department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences proved the skating season in Canada was shrinking. Fifty-five years prior, you’d have had upwards of 15 more days of outdoor shinny. But those days are getting fewer as we continue to burn fossil fuels. Will hockey have to sacrifice the outdoor game for the indoor one?
Cole Borchardt just had the shift of his life. The 19-year-old didn’t score a goal or block a shot, but he did walk without assistance and that’s practically a miracle, considering where he was a year ago.
The Toronto Blue Jays are putting up enough offense to win the Rocket Richard Trophy (they have that in baseball too, right?), so it’s no surprise local boy Steven Stamkos – a two-time winner of that accolade himself – dropped by to shag a few pitches himself the other day.
Stamkos is a well-known baseball fan who plays the game in the summer, despite the fact he’s one of the best hockey players in the world. But he’s not the only elite iceman whose sporting pursuits go beyond the arena. And for young players (and their parents), Stamkos is a great role model.
Randy Hernandez isn’t the son of a famous NHLer. He didn’t grow up playing on backyard ponds and his first words weren’t the name of his favorite hockey team.
“Actually, I didn’t watch hockey at all when I was little,” he said. “I didn’t watch until I was 12.”
Hernandez just completed his first full season of AAA hockey, in fact. But this year, he’ll be a member of one of the most exclusive teams on the continent, the U.S. National Team Development Program’s under-17 squad. How he got there is remarkable.
It’s difficult to type these words. Not because there’s nothing to say, but because my brain is in my way.
Today, it’s the pain. It’s not a sharp pain – that comes some days, too, in the form of migraines – but more of a dull, steadily increasing pressure, like the inside of my skull is hosting a birthday party and some poor clown keeps trying to inflate balloons inside it.
It’s been 11 years since my last serious concussion, with a couple car accidents sprinkled in since then, and I know my life will never be the same. I’m lucky to write about hockey for a living, as I can’t play it anymore. I can do 30 minutes of cardio, once a week, and if I push my luck with a second session, the vertigo kicks in. Missing a step on a staircase or hitting a big wave on boat can do me in for a couple days, too. When a subway train pulls up, I have to look away until it comes to a stop.
After visiting the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital this past Wednesday, however, I realize my path could have been very different. Had I not returned to class, cracked the books hard and written my exams just days after my severe head trauma, and taken the time to recover properly, I might have no limitations today.
That was the message delivered by Dr. Nick Reed, Dr. Michelle Keightley, and a team of uniquely qualified hockey people at Holland Bloorview as they launched Concussion & You: A Handbook for Parents and Kids. The central tenet is ensuring no young person returns from a major head injury too soon.
Sean Day is one of the more fascinating prospects available for the 2016 NHL draft. A Canadian who didn’t live in the country until he was drafted by the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads, Day was the first player to be granted “exceptional status” by Hockey Canada who did not go on to be drafted first overall in the OHL. Now, he has been cut by the Canadian national team’s under-18 squad, which will compete in the Ivan Hlinka summer tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
And some hockey folks are raising some interesting points about the defenseman.