Monday, November 21, 2005

What Is Hockey?

Carrying on this year's tradition of older players and crusty General Managers complaining about a new game, Red Wings icon Steve Yzerman bitched last week about the "new" NHL.

"Everybody keeps saying this is great. It's not great," Yzerman told the Free Press. "It's not hockey."

Putting aside the fact that Red Wing colleague Brendan Shanahan is one of the driving forces behind the "new" NHL, and that if Yzerman really wanted to promote his idea of the game he could have volunteered for the Competition Committee, a greater question looms. That question is: What Is Hockey? We keep hearing players, GMs, talking heads and announcers lobby words around like used grenades, empty of power but still scaring the crap out of people. What is hockey? What isn't hockey? How should it be played? How shouldn't it be played? What is vital? What is not? Have we answered any of these things? I don't think so. If the book or article is out there, I would like to see it. Does one player on one team in one league in the whole world have the right to claim that the NHL game isn't hockey? Even further, should anyone take his comments seriously considering they came after his team blew a two goal lead in the 3rd period to lose their 3rd game in a row? Probably not, but I don't think statements like Yzerman's are going to go away until people start challenging them. Consider this my first shot across the bow.


At 9:17 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Hockey, fellas, is NHL 95 on Sega Genesis.

There's never been anything better than that. Fake left, shoot right. Awesome.

That probably doesn't answer your question, does it?

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Probably not, but it is as good a place as any to start.

I have always felt that hockey in its purest form is how it is played on the street or an outdoor rink. No clutching and grabbing, no crosschecks to the back in the front of the net, and only the occasional jersey-pull tussle. In contrast to say, street basketball, street hockey and shinny hockey lacks a brutal physicality. Similar to street basketball however, both games encourage style over form, and a level of experimentation and enthusiasm that the organized game inhibits. My feeling is that too many NHL players have played the game a certain way (organized) for too long. They forget the game they grew up with. The game they played for hours on end, not for money, but for love.

That doesn't answer the question, either, but it is always my frame of reference when I think about the game of hockey.


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