As I’m sure by now, most people out there who follow sports and Senior Hockey in this province have heard about the incident that occurred between CBN Stars and Mount Pearl Blades last weekend in Harbour Grace. I was not present at this game and cannot give a play by play of what occurred but I certainly am qualified to voice an opinion.
This by the way is not the first time that something like this has occurred at a Senior Hockey game in Newfoundland. As some of you may recall, a very similar incident occurred a couple of years ago in Clarenville and was on the airwaves and news broadcasts for a couple of weeks. I was a part of the opposing team that played that night and believe me it was not a pretty scene. There were cans, bottles and anything else that people in attendance threw at us as we exited the ice, which we ultimately lost in overtime and believe it or not but I never received any penalty or suspension as a result of the on and off ice craziness that went on that night even though a half a dozen players were suspended. Our dressing room was literally stormed upon as we exited the ice with fists and objects flying everywhere and as result natural instincts took over and everyone was scared to death and decided to protect themselves out of fear .
Now, throughout my Junior, Professional and Senior playing days I have played well over a thousand games and amassed well over 4000 PIMS, which I contribute to allowing me to survive and stay at that level for a combined 20 years. Anyone that knows me would 100% tell you that I don’t have a mean bone in my body and my reasons for playing the game the way I did was because of these 2 main factors: 1) It allowed me to bring something else to the table, which ultimately gave me an advantage over the next person competing for the same position. You see back then it was a game of survival of the fittest and that was what the NHL teams wanted back then. 2) My second reason for playing and competing the way I did, especially when I moved back home to play Senior hockey was for the entertainment factor. The people and fans of Senior hockey in NL had a preconceived perception of who I was and how I played the game, so if you know me at all I played up to that and had a blast! Just ask any fan from Deer Lake or Grand Falls, no matter how much they razzed me and yelled at me I always had a smile on my face and had a lot of fun with them as well. Believe me I was not the favourite person walking into the Hodder Memorial Arena in Deer Lake. When we would arrive and have to walk through the main entrance and the stands before a game with about 4-500 people lined up to get in and yelling things that you would never want your child to hear you had to realize right away that this was the entertainment for the evening in these towns so you might as well play along and enjoy it, which is definitely what I did.
You are probably asking yourself now; What the hell does this have to do with anything about the recent events in Harbour Grace? Well, they have everything to do with it! As a player you have to realize a couple of things. First of all, how lucky you are to be able to play this great game at the highest level of hockey there is in NL. Secondly, not only are you playing a game you love, but you are getting paid to do it. You get treated and I know because I have been at almost every level of hockey there is in North America 10 X better than probably every league except for the AHL. Thirdly, you have unbelievable fans that demand a bit of professionalism and effort when you come into their communities every weekend during the winter. These fans pay premium prices to watch you play and without them there would not be a very high calibre of hockey because the teams alone just would not be able to afford to pay the salaries.
These facts alone should be enough to make you realize that it may be time to relax and take the weekend hockey games for what they are. They are an opportunity for you to make a few extra dollars while playing the world’s best game in your home province with probably the country’s greatest fans. Where else can you go in Canada and enjoy the calibre of hockey you do with near packed houses all year long and then if you are lucky enough to win your league and compete for the Herder it gets even better as you get to see communities come together, which doesn’t happen every day and have kids look-up and idolize you as though you were an NHL player.
As for the fans, chill-out!! Take a few minutes and read my previous blog about how the game of hockey is just that, a GAME! Most of these players are no different than you at your weekly rec game, you all do it for the fun and enjoyment. I can understand how badly you want to support your team and even feel as though you are even a part of the team and that’s quite fine because you really are! Without your constant support there wouldn’t be any hockey at all and not just Senior, I mean all leagues.
Emotions more often than not win over common sense so at the end of your next game, whether you are a player, fan or coach just sit back and take it all in before you decide to throw a bottle or stick at someone. The beauty of this game is that at the end of the night you can go home and get up the next day and try and do it all over again.
Everyone needs to learn to respect each other here because if we can’t find away to get along there won’t be much to do on your Saturday Nights next year. Hopefully the incident in Harbour Grace is a thing of the past and won’t be repeated again. All I have heard all week is it was the security guards fault, it was the managements fault, it was the fans fault or it all happened because of those Mount Pearl players. Well like it or not, it is a combination of everyone involved with the game that evening and the sooner you can realize that and learn from it the faster we can get back to enjoying our senior hockey once again. As for the charges that have been filed against the player involved or the fan that was apparently injured, it is what it is at this point, put it behind you and lets put all the negative press to bed as soon as we can. You should just be thankful that you never had “a pack of frozen meat” thrown at you!
Last but not least, remember the playoffs are just around the corner. Most teams have started announcing playoff dates and times, so I wish the best of luck to every team and please remember to keep your eyes on the prize and no more throwing away those great Arena fries.