Lately, there's the IIHF juniors championship in Sweden and there's also the NHL regular season. What I've been seeing lately (complete and utter suckage), I thought it was out of lack of skill. That there just wasn't enough talent. Other than Afinogenov, I could see no one else match that level of play. But the main reason isn't lack of talent although that's a definite problem too. It's the plays they teach these kids. What you are about to read is humiliating to the NHL and a disgrace to all the fans who wish to see exciting hockey. Now you will hear why hockey will never be the same and why you should not expect it to change anytime soon.
The first thing we should address is the hockey stick itself. These new sticks made of synthetic material are a scam. Not just because they're cheaper to build than wooden ones, or that they break easy, or that they cost WAY more to the hockey player. Those are part of the scam for sure. I've built hockey sticks along with my family. We've tested almost every material out there and we can tell you that the best hockey sticks are made out of wood. But there was no way to get extra profit. Prices for wooden sticks have a certain range. So hockey companies came out with something "different" which was actually worse than what was already on the market.
Ok, so what's the real scam? It's all normal business practice to try and increase profit. Who cares if people buy mediocre products? It's their choice. True enough. But false advertising is deceitful. The biggest scam came from the rumour that lighter sticks are better. I don't know who came up with this, but it's a complete hoax. If you believe that lighter sticks are better, then you've been had. We've heard this all the time that lighter is better, but why would this be true? What's the basis for this? Men play hockey more than women and even then, as humans can we not lift a stick made out of wood no matter the weight? If you can't lift a stick made of wood, maybe you're too weak to play hockey and should check into the hospital right away and get that checked out.
I don't know where this first started, but I do know it was a way to sell these new synthetic sticks. So let's look at why this is false. We need to look at a little physics. If you have two objects going toward each other and they collide, physics dictates that the heavier one will have precedence. The heavier one will push aside or destroy the lighter one. So if you're at a face off, the one with the heavier stick will ALWAYS win. ALWAYS! The only way you can lose the face off is if you miss the puck. This isn't rocket science. Everyone knows a train will completely destroy a car coming the other way on the track at the same speed. The same thing happens at smaller scales. The heavier object always wins.
There's more to this stick business. Weight isn't the only thing that gives you an advantage. Speed also determines the momentum of an object. Both speed and weight play a role. When at a face off, there's only so much speed you can give your blade. So that's not the determining factor. However, when receiving passes, the speed of the puck increases its momentum. If you're holding your stick, you have to hold it with both hands to counteract this momentum if you have a light stick as your body will have to compensate for the lack of weight in your stick. If you're reaching with one hand on your light stick, you're out of luck. You cannot catch the pass because you have nothing to counteract the speed of the puck's momentum. However, if you have a heavier stick, then you've greatly increased your chances of receiving passes one handed. Because both speed and weight take part in momentum, you can use either one to counteract another objects momentum. So a fast puck can be stopped by a heavy stick. But not by a light one.
Yes, it gets even worse. Synthetic materials are cast. This means they are set in one configuration. Once it is brought out of their original configuration, the materials must break at the molecular level. So good luck making more than one shot. Another thing. Because these materials are not flexible (ie. they bend by breakage of the molecular bonds), this means they cannot absorb the shock of the puck hitting your blade. So the puck will either slip or bounce because this energy must go somewhere. Wood is very elastic, so it can absorb many shots both on the receiving and sending ends.
All right. Now, we can move on to the actual game. Where to start? There's so much that is wrong, it's hard to know what to look at first. Let's start with making plays. That's the most obvious part lacking in today's game. There are no more plays. They just don't exist. There's a very real reason for this. They removed plays from the game because at one point, the spectators and viewers started what is called the blame game
. This was several years ago in the '90s. Whenever some players made a play to the net and it didn't work, this would cause a turnover. Sometimes, it looked ridiculous. But that's hockey. There's no reward without risk. What happened is that players were being pointed out. So instead of trying to score, players started to try and cover their ass. They started making what is called "safe" plays. Shooting the puck in began. Playing the trap was not far behind. Chasing the puck in the corners was also made popular because then it's an even fight. No one can be blamed for losing the puck in the corners. From this point on, the game went to shit. The game effectively changed to support a style for those who lack skill. If no one can be blamed, then everyone has a chance in the NHL.
Let's back up a bit. We should look at the player's energy levels. When you have 17 to 25 years olds who are tired or fatigued, send them to the hospital. They do not belong anywhere near professional sports. There's something wrong. I used to stand outside in below freezing weather with a t-shirt on waiting to get inside bars, going non-stop all night, getting plastered and still having energy left in the morning. So if 15 seconds on the ice tires out a player, get rid of them. There's something wrong.
Hockey is about endurance, not strength. Gretzky never exercised until his 30's and used to eat hot dogs before the game. The problem is that today's players are too brute force. They don't know how to effectively use their energy. When a player starts to skate and gets up to speed, they don't change the way they skate. They keep fighting the ice as if they're standing still. They need to learn balance and use gravity and momentum to their advantage. Once you're going at a certain speed, it's very easy to keep going at that speed with little effort. But this isn't what NHL players do anymore. Watch how Orr or LaFleur used to take off. You'll notice a real difference between how they get going and how they skate when they're at top speed. Players need higher oxygen intake. This is needed for the muscles. But if you do weight training, much of that oxygen goes to muscles that shouldn't be used. We need leaner and faster players that have high lung capacities. Weight training makes you slow. Always has and always will. It also makes you weaker when it counts. Sure, you can lifts weights, but you have no concept of oxygen intake, so you can't muster that energy when you most need it. No oxygen, no energy. Hockey is a dynamic game. You need to be able to harness your energy and bring it out when it most counts, quite literally.
Following on this theme, learn to check. No one knows how to check. And if you miss, don't lunge out with your elbow. That's sick. Stop the cross-checking to the back. These things are just disgraceful and show a lack of respect for other players. Checking and chasing the puck is taxing. Don't do it. You will burn out. You can check, but only if it's critical. And don't do the hit and stick that they do today. You know what I mean. You see a player checking another, but they stay glued to that player. What's that about? Not only are you taking the other player out of the game, but yourself as well. That's not the point of checking. You're being stupid if you check and you gain no advantage.
In the corners, don't fight for the puck. Set up your players where the puck is likely to come out. Fighting in the corners only reduces your energy level. You can't score from the corners. Sure, there's the lucky break, but that's all they are. Don't fool yourself that this was because of some clever play because it's downright stupid. If the other team has the puck in the corner, that's where you want it. They can't score from there. But keep the pressure up while keeping the energy levels up. Don't tire yourself out, but do try and cause enough frustration to the other team's players that will drain their energy. When you get the puck, you'll have the energy to mount an attack, but the other team will be exhausted.
I'm going to repeat this one. Don't chase the puck. You are no longer mites. And you're no longer cute. So please give it up. For the sake of the kids who are learning hockey. You're setting a bad example. Mites now think they're NHL calibre because frankly, there's no difference. Toronto, I'm talking to you.
Then there's defensive play. Let me state for the record that no team in hockey history, whether it be NHL, juniors, gentlemen's league or otherwise, has ever won a game by playing defensive. NEVER! If you don't score, you lose. It's as simple as that. Well, with the NHL, that's not entirely true. As is consistent with the NHL's degradation, we now have a point for the losing team if it goes into or beyond overtime. This is stupid. The winning team should get a point and the losing team NOTHING! Otherwise, you're playing a mini game of 5 minutes for 1 point that could be played at any time. It has no connection to the 60 minute game anymore. Get rid of this ridiculous notion that losers win.
Back to defensive play. Defence is important, but if you're in the opponent's zone, that's the best defensive play you could ever make. The other team can't score if the puck is in their zone and you control the puck. So please, let's put this notion of defensive play to rest once and for all. It's bad hockey and hurts the game. Then there are absurd notions like Buffalo's coach saying they play a good defensive game. Buffalo has the WORST record for defensive play. They cannot keep a lead if their life depended on it. It's gotten to the point where coaches are delusional because if you keep losing your lead, it really boggles the mind how one can say that their defensive play is working. It'd be like a cyclist saying he's the best, yet he came in dead last. I just don't get it.
Today, I was watching the Canada vs. USA juniors’ game on RDS. After that borefest, these three hockey players came on and talked about the game of hockey. I forget who they were, but I know Giguere (a goalie) was there. I didn't pay much attention, but at the end I saw the most stupid thing I've ever seen in hockey. I couldn't believe my eyes. If you did this where I'm from, you'd be laughed out of the rink because it's so fucking amazingly dumb. And this is from NHL players. Here's the play they were talking about. When you have a 2 on 1, they were saying that the hardest thing for a defenseman is when the other team (the 2 players attacking) shoot the puck in the corner. WHAT? If the puck is out of harm's way (ie. the slot or the point), the defensemen did his job. What in the world were these dumbassses talking about? It gets better. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, it was so bad. Get this. Their plan was to shoot the puck in the corner, chase the puck down, pass it to the guy in front of the net while his back is turned to the play with a defenseman on his back and have the guy in front of the net beat the goalie. Holy fuck! What are these guys smoking?
First off, I feel bad having to explain how ridiculous this is on so many levels. These are NHL players and they don't know hockey. Ok, if you shoot the puck in the corner or if you stay against the boards, you're effectively playing for the other team. You're not doing your team any service and only helping your opponent get the puck from you. You've gone from a scenario where you control the puck and have a scoring chance to one where puck control is contested and where you absolutely cannot score under any circumstance.
There is a cone area that goes from the net (called the crease and the slot mid-zone) to the two edges of the blue line (called the points). These areas are where you can score from. Anywhere else and it's called a bad angle shot. They are low percentage shots and for good reason. The goalie hardly has to do anything to cover the angle. So if you stay on the boards or shoot the puck in the corner, you're out of that cone area in front of the net. You cannot score. Yet, for some reason, these NHL players think they can break the laws of physics and common sense.
As I've said before, the defenseman doesn't go after the player in the corner. If you look at this scenario where one player is in the corner with the puck and the other is in front of the net, the players who can score has gone from 2 (when there was a 2 on 1 which is why 2 on 1's are so great) to a situation where only ONE player MIGHT score. The only problem is that the guy in front of the net doesn't have the puck. The guy in the corner has to get it to him. This means there's only one path the puck can take in order to score. The defenseman just has to cover this line and put pressure on the guy in the corner and there's no way they can score.
This play gets even worse. Actually, I can find nothing good about it. When you had a 2 on 1, you can either pass the puck so that the other player can shoot or you can take a shot yourself at the net. The defenseman has a tough decision to make. Decisions lead to mistakes and that's where you can score. But if you go in the corner, there is no decision to be made. He has to stop the puck from getting to the guy in front of the net. There's no decision and no room for making the wrong choice. Execution might be at fault, but these are supposed to be NHL players. But that's not all. The time it takes for a player to go from the blue line to the corner is about a third of the ice length. This give the defenseman’s team mates an entire third of the ice as well to catch up and get into position. That's the killer of that play. If you want to be sure not to score, use the dump in. I'll never understand turning a 2 on 1 to a losing scenario.
I'll just mention again about shoot-ins. Don't do this. You are converting a situation where you control the puck to a situation where the puck possession is contested. You're only helping the other team. Sure, you can occasionally score. But this is because NHL teams don't play anything else. If you use a tactic long enough, odds are eventually you'll get one in. And because everyone plays it, it gets false credibility. Use this tactic against a knowledgeable team and you'll never score.
Continuing on keeping possession, you should always skate at full speed when you have the puck. This goes for all team mates. The other team cannot stop you if you go at full speed unless you go against the boards as I've said before. If you cross the blue line in the center, what's the defence on the other team to do? If they both go on you, then your wings are open and can pass and get a shot on net. If one of them commits to you, it'll open up the ice on that side and again your team mate can get a scoring chance. But you must shoot before you exit the cone area. Everyone always goes too far and now I know why. They teach them this dumb shit. They think it's a good play.
Another thing. Passing when you're making a play is open to interceptions and turnovers. This doesn't mean it's bad. You need to open up scoring chances. For every pass or shot that succeeds, you get a scoring chance. If you dump the puck, you get none and have no hope of winning unless the other team plays the same stupid way.
I saw a game the other day between Calgary and San Jose. In the second period, I was shocked. They were playing real hockey. Unfortunately, they couldn't make a play to the net worth a bag of nails. But it was end to end hockey with many scoring chances. The commentators and the fans were going wild. At the second intermission, they interviewed this player. I forget who it was and from what team. But what he said was equally shocking. When asked about the high pace, he said that when play goes end to end, then someone on both teams is making mistakes. I couldn't believe my ears. How stupid do you have to be? When you attack, you go all out. If the other team stops the play, then they get possession of the puck. You have to expect that they will bring it out and start their own attack. It doesn't mean that you did a mistake. Quite the contrary, it brings all the players into the action to do their respective jobs. The defence has to take care of the attack coming back. That's their job. The forwards' job is to try and score. THAT IS HOCKEY! In short, this NHL player was saying that hockey is a mistake. Why the fuck should we watch then? Where's the sport? Shoot-ins and scrambling against the boards? Screw that shit. That's for losers.
There are so many things wrong with hockey today that I could go on forever. But the disturbing part isn't that players lack skill or play boring hockey. No, the disturbing part is that they are taught boring hockey. They think this is the way it should be. The coaches are guilty here. I've played hockey and if I ever dumped the puck in or turned a scoring chance into a losing one, I'd been told "Don't worry. You'll get better next time." But in the NHL, they're told that this is good hockey. That's what pisses me off. I thought it was because the players made mistakes or had a mental lapse or SOMETHING to explain away the bad hockey. No, folks. It's on purpose. They don't get it. They don't know hockey. Hockey is about teamwork and scoring goals. The NHL doesn't even know basic hockey anymore. We're watching a bunch of adults chase the puck and play bad hockey on purpose. The time for excuses is over.Part TwoPart Three