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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 02.26.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Hockey: great game, lousy sport

Here's one Canadian who doesn't give a rat's rump that the National Hockey League season is cancelled.

My interest in professional hockey has always been peripheral at best. As a kid, I bought hockey cards mainly for the gum, which was like a cherry tongue depressor and now sorely missed.

Later, "Hockey Night in Canada" was something I watched with college roommates because there was nothing better to do and/or no one had the motivation to get up and change the channel.

I haven't followed hockey at all since Gretzky was traded to the Kings which, if you think about it, is pretty much when everything started to go south - literally.

Since then, the game has been dominated by brutes, bores, greed, and Ducks. As one Detroit hockey fan said recently, "The distressing thing is, my heroes are morons. And that's kind of a reflection on me."

My own hockey career has been limited to games of floor hockey with the 2nd Antigonish Boy Scout Troop. What became of the 1st troop, I'm not sure; maybe a tree-planting excursion gone horribly wrong. At any rate, we were a force to be reckoned with at the annual Antigonish-Guysborough Floor Hockey Tournament. Ah, glory days…

Had I played hockey of the ice variety, I might be grieving more about the cancelled season. It's not as though it's not a thrilling game - watch the videos of the men's and women's 2002 Olympic gold-medal games to see just how riveting good, non-commercial hockey can be. Or watch 10-year-olds play; trust me.

Hockey doesn't have to be pretty to be good. This past weekend, for instance, the Annual World Pond Hockey Championships were held in Plaster Rock, N.B., bringing the great game back to its roots - outside, friendly-like and played by middle-aged men saying things like "I'm going to pay for this tomorrow."

I was up on our local rink Sunday playing 4-on-4 hockey with Stanstead's own Great One, Raymond Parent, who keeps the ice in pristine condition, always has a stick to lend to the kids, and will sneak a puck through your legs with a smile on his face.

We were four adults and four kids, although with my skills, it was more like three adults, five kids. No, that's not true either. The 11-year-olds skated circles around me as my ankles crumpled on the turns and my stick developed a phantom hole in the blade.

I excelled, however, in the vocal element of the game. "Nice shot, James!" and "Oooh, it's wide!" and "Come on, Sean, bring it up!" It took everything I could to restrain myself from saying, "This team really came out to play!"

Raymond scored all our team's goals, made it look easy, in fact. I contented myself with making a few nice passes and managing not to fall on my butt. Or anyone else's.

It was no thing of beauty. But, boy, it was fun. We cheered on the other team's breakaways and goals. No one threw down their gloves, or in this case, mittens. When there was a collision, play stopped briefly as the parties asked, "You okay?" "Yeah, sorry." What would Don Cherry say? Then again, who cares?

Certainly, the CBC doesn't. The corp cancelled its fine "Hockey Day in Canada" broadcast this year because of the NHL strike, which leads you to think that despite its talk about "Canada's game" and "noble tradition," the CBC doesn't actually get it at all. It's this focus on the bottom line that has helped make hockey the lousy sport it is.

Lousy sport, but great game. Take it from one who's played on ice maybe five times in his life and made an ass of himself on three of those occasions. With any luck, this strike will remind people what matters about hockey - having a good time and not thinking about how much money they'll make when they become a Duck.

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