To say that the National Hockey League has changed since the days when I was younger would be a huge understatement. The face of everything in the sport has changed 100% completely. From teams and players to broadcasting and television hosts; it’s just not the same. You could attribute it to just growing up and being nostalgic about the past but deep down I think it’s simply much more than that.
In a nostalgic sense, I’m lost without Saturday night viewings of Hockey Night in Canada ringing out from the television screen. I realize it’s still going and I’m anxious to see what it’s going to look like but it hasn’t been the same since TSN bought the rights to its historic theme song. Gone are the days of hearing the Coach’s Corner theme song, listening to Don Cherry and Ron McLean banter back and forth during the first intermission break and people actually stopping what they’re doing to listen to Cherry speak (no joke, my family used to drop what they were doing.). Or during the second intermission, sitting through Satellite Hotstove and not Hotstove Tonight itching to get the third period started.
Afternoon games were unheard of on television. It was a privilege to be able to stay up and watch your favourite team on a school night.
The age of the enforcer is dying out. It’s just going to be a chapter in a hockey history book someday. When guys like Mike Milbury, who beat up a fan in the stands with his own shoe, is calling for the end of fighting in the sport you know times have changed. While I could sit here and list all the points as to why fighting and enforcing needs to stay in the game, there’s no point. With the advancement of how concussions and mental health have affected the competitive athlete, it’s a no brainer to end it when your own health is on the line. However, all these same things could happen with a body check, or a trip, or a slash, or even a hard face wash. Taking fighting out isn’t going to stop that.
Everything has a price tag or an endorsement on it. I’m not against making money obviously, but everything just seems so over the top and extravagant. I miss the days of walking into an arena, smelling the fresh PLAIN ice that would just feature the faceoff circles, the goaltenders crease, two blue lines and a red line. Do we really need ref cams? It’s a cool feature but we’re getting a little overboard here.
There’s no loyalty with players anymore. Yes they sign 8 year deals but how many of them actually stick them out? They go where the coin is. You can’t blame them either; that’s all on the owner’s and GM’s but how does one grow attached to a player now? On the same note, there’s a lot of lazy players in the game today. Just want to skate by and grab their cheque. Like, I said, maybe it’s because I’m much older now and see the world differently but I can’t be the only one feeling this way.
That’s why I enjoy the minors and other professional leagues. These guys feel the need to prove something to their fans night in and night out just to keep their jobs. In reality, that’s exactly what it is. Professional hockey is their full time job. With the exception of the NHL and AHL, nobody is getting paid huge wads.
I’m starting to sound like I’m bitter about everything, but I’m not. Hell, if I was offered a $50 million dollar, 8 year contract I’d take it in a heartbeat. Who wouldn’t? But that’s just one area that proves how much the game has changed.
Maybe the spark of the NHL will come back and flicker in my eyes a few more weeks into the season. Maybe it won’t. Things change and evolve over time, that’s just life. Even though it’s changed so much since the days of my youth there’s one thing I can be grateful for.
It gave me the sport I love.
Disclaimer: I realize that there are millions of people around the world who are super excited for this season and I couldn’t be happier! This is just some thoughts coming from someone who has followed the game for over 20 years now.
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