Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Well...at least he put the disclaimer in

Although I’m not sure about the reference to child porn (and more than a little worried what kind of traffic is going to find us after just writing that), there is an underlying, and uncomfortable truth to what Ghostrunner on First writes here.

Not the part about the Blue Jays being “marginalized.” That’s, frankly, insane. He or she should try following junior hockey or CIS sport to understand what it means to get screwed over by the major Canadian sports media. A week of Memorial Cup coverage ain’t gonna kill Jays fans. Baseball’s better on radio anyway.

Where he or she hits home is the idea that the kids that make up junior hockey rosters might be getting exploited. The small weekly stipend they receive doesn’t seem right when you consider how much money a team like the London Knights or Kitchener Rangers is making off their back.

Of course it might be a little naïve to think that every player on the ice is taking home $400 a week. And, the kids that sign up to play do so with the full knowledge of what they are getting themselves into (and with the understanding that the CHL will provide them with the best possible chance to go pro). Still, as an adult, you can feel a little dirty sometimes when cheering on the local junior hockey team. Certainly, it’s important for those of us that should know better to demand that the CHL provide every educational opportunity available to its players.

When I am going to take Mr. or Ms. Ghostrunner to task is on his or her contention that no one older that 13 should care about junior hockey.

To me, junior hockey is what keeps me connected to my roots. Although I’ve long since stopped idolizing teenage hockey players, I’ve never lost the love of the logo on the front of the shirt. To me a Belleville Bulls game is the comfort food of watching sports. No matter where I am, or how long it has been since I was last in Belleville, I will always have something in common with those living in my hometown.

I wasn’t at the first Belleville Bulls OHL game—it was a school night. But, I was at the second and hundreds more throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s. For most of those games, I sat beside my grandfather. I’d pretty much give up everything I own to have one of those nights back. I can’t, but I can evoke those memories by cheering the Bulls on year after year.

So, yeah, I do care about a junior hockey team. And, I’m much older than 13.


Lloyd the Barber said...

As former Belleville resident, I too have fond memories of Bulls games in my youth. I'll never forget the standing ovation Cornwall Royal John Slaney received from the Belleville crowd, having scored the gold medal winning goal at the 1991 World Juniors.

But as an adult, cynical and jaded as I am, I don't any interest in junior hockey. I don't watch high school basketball either, or minor league baseball. Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. This is big business, one built on the sweat of kids who'd do anything for the chance. There are far too many that fall through the cracks in the system. I knew my piece was being inflammatory, but the parallels to college football ring true. Someone's making money while someone else's dreams are being crushed.

Lloyd the Barber - Ghostrunner on First.

sager said...

A good companion to this is Mark Moore's chapter in his book Saving The Game, where he argues for making juniors for kids 17-19 and a feeder system for collegiate hockey. (One of his ideas for increasing the game's popularity in the States was to encourage more big colleges to start programs, since Americans identify with sports they got into through high school or an area college.)

That's unlikely to happen, so why begrudge those of us who follow junior hockey because it's a way of staying true to one's roots? Major junior hockey has its dark side, but the players are required to be in school or working and it doesn't corrupt the public education system, unlike NCAA basketball and football.