Thursday, October 31, 2013

We Should All Be Watching More Junior Hockey

The NHL bores the crap out of me, there I said it.

To start with the equipment is to big and rock hard. Compare the equipment from even 25 years ago to today, its insane. There have always been injuries but reason there is so many injuries now is these guys are protected like gladiators and there is no respect, there is to much diving and every call is questioned and the players and coaches whine and complain like spoiled 6 year old kids. Young guys thinking they deserve 5 million after 3 years in the league, quality players turning down 7 million a year and guys past their prime getting 8 million a year for extended years. The main problem is these guys honestly believe they are entertainers and not athletes.

Why am I saying what we all know, understand and ignore (I am guilty to)? Its because we love our team and the game right?  Well I went to a Red Deer Rebels (2001 Memorial Cup Champions) vs. Saskatoon Blades game the other night. I had forgotten how great the Junior Hockey experience is.
The arena was world class with a capacity of 6500 and the beer was cold. I know there are bigger arenas in Junior in places like Mississauga, London, Halifax and countless other locations. Gone are the days of the musty 3000 seat barn like the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena. Those old barns are reserved for Junior B and C.
General Ticket was $21 at the door. I could have purchased it from the thieves that are Ticket Master but why pay $5 more just because I am addicted to the interweb. My seat was 3 rows behind the team benches which had me face to face with Darryl Sutter, former NHL great.   Beer was expensive at $6.50 but you could sit in your seat and were not confined to some roped off area behind one end or in some cave under the arena where you had to watch the game on closed circuit TV (again NF Arena). That being said there was a temp. bar behind one end that had 2 tvs going with NHL Games on. Sure these kids have NHL dreams and most will not make it but watching them play for the sheer joy of the game was fantastic.

Niagara Falls has had some great teams over the years with many players who moved on to NHL careers, plus a Memorial Cup or 2 along the way. One team that had the guys to go all the way were the NiagaraFalls Thunder. That 1988 - 1989 Thunder team was stacked however Bill LaForge and his insane 4 men deep and 1 defense back destroyed the season in the Division Finals against a real strong Peterborough Petes Team. A team who made it to the Memorial cup, which was eventually won by Swift Current Broncos from the West.

** With Credit to Swift Current, 3 years earlier the team bus crashed killing 4 players.
On December 30, 1986, the Broncos' bus crashed on the way to a game in Regina. Four players: Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff (younger brother of then-player and former Sabre coach Lindy Ruff) were killed. [1] Their jersey numbers were retired by the team afterwards, and the team still wears a commemorative patch in remembrance of the four players. The rest of the team, led by future NHL star Joe Sakic, who recorded 60 goals, played out the season despite the loss. In a move to memorialize the fallen players, the WHL now awards the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy to the league's Player of the Year.
** On that Memorial Cup winning Team was Sheldon Kennedy, another tragic hockey story.
I had season tickets that year and what a great year. Stan Druilia breaking the all time OHL career points, the tragic Brian Fogerty smashing Bobby Orrs Records and being taken in the top 5 nhl draft by Quebec, Jamie Leach breaking all kinds of short-handed goal records and Keith Primeau, a future NHL fixture

I have seen many hockey games in my days. However the greatest game I ever watched was the 7th game Eastern Conference Final between Niagara Falls and a very good London Knights Team. We won in overtime but the emotional ups and downs and elation at winning was something never to be forgotten...AND THIS WAS A JUNIOR GAME.

Like so many good Niagara Falls teams there was limited support (Niagara Falls is so messed up) and the team moved to Erie Penn. There were the Memorial cup Champion Niagara Falls Flyers on the 60s and the Niagara Flyers Redux coached by the legendary Burt Templeton. Both teams sadly moved along. Check the link and you may be surprised who players there as a junior.

Finally, remember when a great player would score a goal, raise his arms and that was it, they had done it before. Now guys are jumping all over the place like they need to entertain the fans....and that is the problem. Hockey players have been sold that they are entertainers not athletes playing a game. Play the game, that is the entertainment. Football is the worst offender and Basketball, well the entire NBA could fall off the face of the earth for all I care, what a joke that league is. Yeah Yeah its a multibillion dollar industry but so it cocaine distribution. It does not mean its any good.

Anyways, go out and support your junior team and have a little fun

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