Thursday, November 13, 2008

Forcing them to care. That always works

Sorry for the lack of posts – life, work, getting a passport…it’s been busy the last couple…

I now know what torture feels like. Ok, that’s a bit callous. How about, I now know what it feels like to be stuck in a hockey rink with 2,000 screaming children. Not as punchy, but probably a little fairer to anyone who has had the misfortune of being tortured (of which I know nothing about, thank God).

Venturing down to the Hershey Centre for yesterday’s OHL “school day “ game between St. Mike’s and Brampton, the first thing I noticed (other than the irony of the only CHL team to, at least technically, represent a school having a game that interferes with its players going to class) was that this wasn’t a typical OHL hockey game. For one, outside of the about 15 school groups, barely anyone was there. Also, those that were there didn’t seem to really care about the game. And, even the 10 or so partisan diehards that were there were cheering for the road team.

The school kids, of course, were more interested in eating popcorn and seeing their teachers in funny hats. The teachers were just interested in getting out alive, a fact nicely illustrated out by the mass exodus at 2 p.m., with about seven minutes left in a tie game.

(Brampton won in a shoot out, by the way. It was its twelfth win in a row. Crazy)

The whole thing was vaguely sad. Junior hockey shouldn’t have to resort to gimmicks to try and draw. But, Mississauga and Brampton do. Maybe it’s time to come to grips that the GTA and the OHL don’t mix.

I suppose the goal was to get one kid hooked. That kid would go home and tell mom and dad that they really want to go to the next game. I’m sure that happened in a couple cases. However, you aren’t ever going to establish a true bond with the local junior team by a one off like yesterday.

I got hooked because my grandfather took me to the games. Every Saturday (and on the occasional Wednesday if I was really lucky) for my entire childhood. It was my little hometown versus Shelbyville some other evil, soulless town. Primal stuff, really. As an adult I maintain some of that thinking even though I don’t live in Belleville anymore and really don’t want to either.

There aren’t many grandfathers taking their grandkids to games in the GTA (because junior hockey has never sold here and because many of the grandfathers in Peel and York regions are probably taking their grandkids down to the cricket club, or to TFC). There is nothing wrong with that. It would just be a good idea for the OHL to understand it. And, if there really isn’t an interest in places like Mississauga, then maybe it’s time to get teams back into the heartland of junior hockey.

The North Bay Battalion and Cornwall Majors have a nice ring to it.

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sager said...
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