No, this blog post has nothing to do with the upcoming elections, the weather, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman or the economy.
It’s a total sports post and it’s all about the Flyers. And ice hockey. And sportsmanship in general and the total lack of respect shown by some athletes – of all ages. Unfortunately, this is where we are in sports and in our society.
I have been involved in sports my whole life. I have played just about every sport – obviously none so well that I made millions at the highest levels or I wouldn’t be sitting here blogging. However I have competed in sports, coached sports and most recently entered the area of officiating sports.
Now in my third year of officiating ice hockey – mainly youth games – I have become astounded at the behavior of the athletes. The vulgarity even out of the mouths of babes, the actions that are on the borderline of criminal on the part of grown men and even the hooligans in the stands who watch both children and men play what should be remembered is a “game.”
But if we – and me – are astounded at where we are, we need to look no further than Sunday afternoon’s Flyers and Penguins game.
Now it’s always been the rule, sort of, that once the National Hockey League season hit the playoffs, you would see a lot less than goonery and more skating, passing, scoring and generally the beautiful parts of a game known for its intensity, roughness and toughness. And I would say for the most part, that’s what happens.
However, kids are kids and over-the-hill male athletes are over-the-hill male athletes. They watch too much television and need some serious reality checks. And if anyone doesn’t think that the kids are watching this stuff too, they’re nuts. I have officiated enough games of kids ages 5 and 6 and have seen more than my share of Danny Briere glove-in-the-air-sweeping celebrations by players barely up to my waist. These kids watch it and they absorb it.
The same thing with men and the play they exhibit on the ice. We must remember these are guys 6-foot-whatever, many 200-plus pounds skating around with enough speed – and a wooden or composite material stick – to do some real damage. A puck, by the way, is no pleasure either – having been hit by one plenty of times.
So what are these kids and men doing to get my wrath? Well, I would say I have encountered enough F-bombs from kids young enough to still get a spanking by mom or dad that I care to count, and men who have total disregard the fact that they are playing a game and that pretty much all the guys playing have to get up in the morning and go to work to feed their families. So what gives?
Back to the Flyers. We hate him – Sidney Crosby – but the kids aren’t dumb enough to not recognize who are the superstars. Don’t believe it? Check out the jerseys and T-shirts at the Center. Jagr, Hartnell, Giroux. So when they see Crosby pulling his stunts and not being penalized, don’t think for a moment that these younger players, high school players and even men’s league players don’t say to themselves, “what the heck? Lemme give it a try…”
Of course fans shouting “Crosby sucks” – including kids 5 and 6, doesn’t exactly show the world that we’re parenting these young athletes very well.
What can we do?
Well, for one, parents can start acting like the adults they’re supposed to be all the way down to the 6 a.m. ice hockey games at their local rinks. And coaches can start acting like the adults they’re supposed to be. And men’s league players can start acting like the adults they’re supposed to be.
Look, ice hockey is a naturally rough sport. It takes a tough person – mentally and physically – to play the game. But roughness and toughness doesn’t have to lead to cheap shots and obvious intentional moves to hurt another athlete. It doesn’t have to be that way.
I actually applaud the Flyers for the way they handled things yesterday. At times they were as rough as the Penguins. But there weren’t the dirty, cheap plays. At least not from what I watched. And the Flyers are no angels. But their handling of the Penguin antics I felt were deserving and not over the top.
I used to think I would love to have Crosby on my team, as annoying as he is as an opponent. He truly is one of the most skilled players in his sport in the world. However, what little respect I had for him is gone as of yesterday.
And while he obviously could care less what Andy Hachadorian says or thinks, I think he should. For it’s totally possible for one player like him to completely ruin a sport that already has trouble appealing to the masses. Plays and players like that only appeal to the asses.
I hope the Flyers win Wednesday. Not just because they’re my team but because hopefully it sends a message that the dirty, cheap plays and players don’t get the opportunity to move on and win a Stanley Cup. Any win by a team like that would only be a tarnished win.
This sport, most of its players and all of us who love the game are better than that.
– Andy Hachadorian