Play Every Shift Trying To Get Another One

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a hockey podcast covering the Sochi Olympics. They were talking about Martin St. Louis, the then-Tampa Bay Lightning player that made the Canadian Olympic team after Steven Stamkos pulled out due to an injury.

Play Every Shift Trying To Get Another Shift

None of the experts were sure how much Marty would play during the Olympics, but he did see some action during the early games. He was dressed but didn’t see any ice time in the game versus the United States, but came back and played 4 minutes in Canada’s win over Latvia. In the gold medal game versus Sweden, St. Louis was +1 with 3 shots and 6:46 on the ice. The reporter commented on St. Louis’ performance by saying that he was playing every shift trying to get another shift.

That’s a great observation, and a great lesson for young hockey players. As good as Martin St. Louis is, on a team where every player is a superstar, even he didn’t know if or when his next shift was going to come. So he went out and, on every shift, played like this shift was going to be his last.  By doing that, by playing that hard, he earned another shift, and then another, and another. If during any one of those shifts he went out there and coasted, his day would have been done because, even though he is the star on the Lightning, on Team Canada he was surrounded by a team of guys that were younger, bigger, stronger, and better hockey players than him. But he got his minutes because he played every second of them.

There are very few players in the league that are guaranteed another shift. Sidney Crosby always knows he’s going to get another shift, and that he’ll likely be put in during crucial situations. But even though he knows it, he goes out and plays every shift as if he is earning his next shift, and that’s why he’s one of the best players in the world.

Odds are, you are not a Sydney Crosby. If you are a  Sydney Crosby, first send me your autograph, then do what he does and show the world why you get the minutes that you do.  Odds are, though, that you’re a Martin St. Louis on Team Canada, a great player surrounded by other great players, fighting for your minutes. So go out there and fight for them as if every shift could be your last.

 

I Went To See A Fight And A Hockey Game Broke Out…

Last November, I headed down to my gym at work. I was the only one in there at the time, so I tuned one of the televisions to a replay of the game between the Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers from the previous night. The Capitals were up 7-0 in the third when some rough play caused the game devolve in to fisticuffs, highlighted by the Flyers goalie assaulting the Capitals goalie who had no interested in fighting. When he was interviewed after the game, the Flyers goalie Ray Emery was quoted as saying, “I basically told him to protect himself. I gave him a chance to protect himself.”

Fast forward to January of this year in a game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames. Again, I had the replay on the television in the gym. Literally 2 seconds in to the game after the first puck drop, both sides dropped their gloves, resulting in 10 fighting majors, eight game misconducts and 152 penalty minutes. The Vancouver Canucks coach was suspended for 15 days without pay.

In both incidents, other people that came in to the gym that saw the melees weren’t surprised to see the antics of the players on the screen. To them, that’s what hockey was. Someone repeated the joke “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”. I felt bad that the sport that has so much skill and so much to offer was once again reduced to a single punchline surrounding fighting.

Fighting is one of the most complicated issues in all of hockey. It’s also one of the most polarizing. The reaction to both incidents by the media was representative of the split in opinions by my hockey-watching friends.

One one hand, people claim it is part of the game and that it’s “tradition”. They say that fighting keeps the game in check and serves as a deterrent from other teams taking shots at star players.

On the other hand, others say that fighting is one of the most dangerous parts of the game that is built on firing a frozen bullet at a padded goalie and crunching opponents in to semi-flexible boards. Fighting results in broken hands, concussions, and even a death back in 2009. It’s an unfortunate legacy of a bygone era.

Back in the day, being an enforcer was a role geared more towards the ability to be big, aggressive, and to fight and required little actual hockey ability. It’s the same role idolized in movies like Happy Gilmore and Goon. That’s fine for Hollywood comedies, but is it necessarily the image that is going to grow our game?

In my opinion, the argument that “fighting is tradition” is holding hockey back from evolving. While fighting may not be the reason that hockey is the 6th most popular sport in America behind every other major sport and auto racing, keeping it is not helping change people’s perception of the game and getting more people watching, either.

The argument that if the rules were changed to discourage fighting that there would be a run on top players ignores the fact that there are still other rules, penalties, and consequences for those types of actions. The NHL is already taking action against head shots, and there are fewer head shots. If they took similar action with fighting, we could reduce or remove fighting. Spending 5 minutes in the penalty box for a fight is not a deterrent. But if the participating players serve a suspension and have to fork over some cash, they’ll be less likely to fight and less likely to engage in activities that lead to fighting.

Even the NFL, one of the most brutal sports out there and currently the most popular sport in America, has rules that explicitly discourage fighting with fines and suspensions among the penalties. In the NFL, players are subject to fines even if they aren’t fighting but don’t remove themselves from the vicinity of a fight.

It’s a choice to keep fighting as part of hockey. It’s not because we can’t remove it from the game, it’s because the people that are making the decisions don’t want to. There is no fighting in Olympic hockey or in some European and most recreational leagues, and the lack of fighting doesn’t keep people from watching them. It turns out even this season, likely due to some rule changes and more players wearing visors, that fighting happens to be down, but attendance is not.

It’s time to change. It’s time to evolve. Simply put, it’s time for the NHL to grow up.

Complete Goalie Equipment List

Although I’ve been playing hockey for a number of years, I’m just starting my journey as a goalie. Since I want to stay true to my mission and only recommend products that I have actual experience with, instead of recommending specific products, I’ve put together a list of equipment with links to Goalie Monkey where you can see all the equipment for a specific category. Many of the items for sale have reviews from people that have used them, so be sure to read them before you buy.

Ice Hockey Goalie Equipment List

The prices I’ve included in the table below are for entry-level senior gear, which should be fine for starting goalies. The more expensive gear is generally better with better padding, so if you’re planning on standing in front of an NHL slapshot, you’ll want to pay more for higher end gear.

Goalie Monkey also put together a sizing guide that you can find here.

Equipment Notes Entry Price
Mask Protect the dome. $200
Throat Guard / Dangler I recommend using both, especially since proper head positioning needs to be learned, so you’ll likely be exposed…a lot. $100
Chest and arm protector Protects your chest, arms, and back. The more you spend, the better padding to weight ratio…something to keep in mind since you’ll be wearing it for the entire game. $250
Jersey Generally bigger than a player jersey to accommodate the larger chest and arm protector. $25
Glove The catching glove. Left/right handed. Right handed people that catch with their left hand in baseball will use a left handed catcher. $200
Blocker Used to protect the hand and arm that holds the stick. Left/right handed. $200
Pants Different configuration and more padding than player pants, although if you’re just starting out and making the transition, you could get away with using your player pants. $150
Knee / thigh guard Close the gap between leg pads and pants. $75
 Leg Pads Leg pads will be the single biggest investment, but considering they’ll take a lot of abuse from pucks, sticks, skates, and general mayhem, they’re worth it.

 

Leg Pad Size = Size of skate + Ankle to knee (inches) + Knee to thigh (inches)

$500 – $750
 Stick Similar to a player stick, variables include left/right handed, blade curve, stick length. $150
 Skates The job of the goalie requires a different skate and have a flatter blade and shorter, more protective boot. Sharpened skates can’t be returned, so make sure they fit before you get them sharpened. $300
 Undergarments Long-sleeve top and bottom will help protect your skin from the many belts and straps. $100
 Jock / cup Many goalies wearing a player cup and then a goalie cup on top. $100
 Bag Grab a wheeled back if the gear is too heavy or unwieldy to carry around. $125

Thoughts and musings of an avid hockey player and fan.