Day two of the Silver Stick qualification tournament produced two very interesting games, which both ended favorably for the Boy’s team, but provided a ton of excitement and a little dismay in the process.
In game one, the good guys got off to an all too typical shaky start. In fact, the first goal, of the shorthanded variety, could best be labeled as a “fluke” or “garbage” goal as a puck last touched by a member of the Boy’s team rolled harmlessly towards the waiting goaltender with a friendly defenceman sauntering back to retrieve it. But then the not so harmless puck found its way up the goalie’s angled stick, over the goalie’s unsuspecting shoulder and into the net behind him. The now frantic defenceman lunged forward in disbelief, but he was too late. The referees, who were well behind the play, didn’t even see the puck go in. They never blew their whistles. They were left to concede the goal when the puck was begrudgingly fished from the net by the aforementioned defenceman. 1-0 bad guys.
The very same defenceman would be the one to tie the game at one apiece a short time after; notching his first marker of the season after an end-to-end rush.
But then, as luck (or unluck) would have it, one of the good guys, trying to support his team on a scrambled play in front of the net, would inadvertently slide a second goal past his own goaltender. The opposing team would take a 2-1 lead into the third period on two shots they did not take.
In the third period, the Boys took the game to their opponents. A vast majority of the play was in the opponent’s end. They threw a lot of rubber at the other goalie who turned most of the shots away. One shot he did not manage to corral was deftly guided past him as one of the good guys tipped a shot from the point out of the air. However, the referee, who was apparently unfamiliar with the rule on deflections said the boy’s stick was above his shoulders. The goal was subsequently disallowed. The actual rule states that the stick must be below the top crossbar of the goal - which the referee reportedly agreed that it was.
Undaunted the Boys continued their pressure, but time was most certainly ticking away. During that time there were a couple of near misses, one shot that solidly struck a goal post and at least one quick whistle on the part of the referee. They were finally able to break through and tie the game at 2 on a beautiful back-handed shot taken after a successful face-off with less than two minutes left in the game. Parents cheered wildly. And yet, this was not all, as a frantic rush by a forward with the clock ticking down near zero saw him deposit the winning goal with a mere 7 seconds to go. More crowd jubilation coupled with some frayed nerves as the Boys pulled one from the fire. Little did we know there was even more drama yet to come.
After an eight hour break, the Boys were scheduled to play game three against a familiar regular season rival against whom they’d had some limited success with a win and two ties; including a recent 0-0 contest. Having won their first two games, the Boys were pretty much assured of a berth in the semi-finals, but of course, they wanted to beat this rival and maintain their momentum. The rivals scored the first goal, as usual in this tourney, but there would be an answer in relatively short order.
Then, I feel strongly that it would be fair and unbiased to say that the refs took over the game. I’ve stated previously that I don’t like to complain about officiating. I realize it’s a difficult job. I swear I do my best to bite my tongue. All the more reason in this instance as our 15 year old boys were being overseen by a young gentleman and lady who did not appear to be much more than a couple of years their elder. I would have been concerned for both as well as for players on both teams had any overly physical play broken out - which it didn’t. However, the head referee proceeded to make a rash of highly questionable calls against both teams. A clear check from behind was deemed a holding penalty, a nudge was a roughing call and one player was tossed from the game after the opposing team’s assistant coach reported that he uttered a “racial” slur.
This last call is subject to hearsay evidence and is a particularly touchy area. As it turns out, the player in question is himself from a visible minority and has reportedly been on the receiving end on more than one occasion. Lots of words, racial or otherwise, are hurled back and forth by these testosterone charged players; some of whom go to school together. Nasty, albeit tamer, barbs are even tossed around in the Devil’s games. The dilemma in this case is that one of the linesmen heard the “slur”. And so, the lesson, as Grandma would so aptly put it; is “If you don’t have something nice to say…yadda yadda yadda.” We’re told the offender will now miss at least three games for his indiscretion.
But wait, that’s still not it for the intrigue. Tied at 1-1 in the third and in a 5 on 3 penalty kill situation, yet again, we witnessed another fantastic individual effort as one of the Boy’s teammates forced a turnover in the opponents’ end. Driving towards the goal, he managed to put the puck past another bewildered keeper. The good guys held on to the 2-1 lead for the victory; leaving many parents nerves in relative shambles.
Following the 3-0 start, the semi-finals are tomorrow morning and hockey-gods willing the finals will follow in the afternoon. A few more nails will undoubtedly be whittled to the quick, but that’s why we go to the games after all - to exult in our kids’ victories, to commiserate in their defeats and to be genuinely entertained.
The Boy’s team is in a post-Christmas qualification tournament which is part of a prestigious tourney called the International Silver Stick whose origins date back to 1958. This tournament is touted as the largest in North America and includes teams from Canada and the U.S. in the spirit of “Citizenship and International Goodwill through Silver Stick hockey”. Several qualification tournaments are held on both sides of the border in December leading up to the Finals tournament in mid-January. The current tourney started today and will run over the next three.
The Boy and his mates came out a little sluggish in game one against a team they knew had a pretty good resume; “rumour” had it this team came into the tournament undefeated on the year. Our Boys looked like they suffered from a combination of jitters, sugar plums and roasted turkey complete with stuffing and gravy. The rivals scored a goal about six minutes into the first period. Based on the sluggish start, the situation did not look good. But as the game went on the Boys started to get their legs. They really started to take the game to the other team and were certainly getting better scoring. Both teams were assessed some questionable penalties by the referee; who may himself have still been feeling the effects of a bountiful Yuletide feast. However, after two periods it was still 1-0 as the chances remained nothing more than chances.
That disappointing fact would change in the third. The Boys broke through and converted a chance a couple of minutes into the final frame. Another goal would follow not more than a minute later. The good guys, cheered on by their now ecstatic fans, would make the score 3-1 with less than 10 minutes left. Down by two goals and with 2 1/2 minutes left in the game, the opposing coach decided to pull his goaltender and go with six skaters. The Boys quickly took advantage of the empty net to seal the victory. But they, or at least one of them was not done yet.
In one of the most impressive shifts and individual efforts of the season, one of the Boy’s teammates hopefully set a tone for the rest of the tournament. On this second last shift of the game he started by getting in front of and blocking two shots from opposing defencemen.
The second blocked shot ricocheted off his skate and directly back past the defenceman who had let the shot go. The defenceman turned to retrieve the puck, but our player was hot on his heels. The intrepid forward beat his counterpart to the puck and then muscled his way through both the bewildered defenceman and his teammate who tried to come back to support him. With two players left in his wake, he made his way towards a no doubt startled goaltender. He launching a quick wrist shot that made its way through the keeper and into the waiting mesh behind him.
Five goals in one game, much less one period, has been hard to come by for this team this year. A lot of that has to do with the level of the competition they face. But today, at least, they overcame the competition with a strong display of hustle and determination; capped by the second last shift of the contest. These are the types of plays and games coaches look for to propel a team to new levels. Time will tell if that purpose is served. For now, we’ll just look for an equally spirited effort in game two tomorrow morning.
I wasn’t going to go off on this subject, but there’s been some stuff going down lately that makes me wonder about the why’s and wherefore’s of minor hockey once again. So what else is new you ask? There’s been a situation brewing around the Boy’s team and his larger age division for a few weeks that has the entire congregation buzzing. In short, the team which competes at a level above the Boy’s has lost several players; some to injury, but also some who have simply decided, for whatever reason, to quit the team they tried out and were chosen to play for. This, of course, has left the team severely short-handed and in need of stand-in players. The normal course of action is to call up players (aka APs) from the lower divisions, in this case primarily from the Boy’s team, to fill in for the missing or otherwise unavailable players. These temporary call ups are just that, ”temporary”, as their first commitment is to the team they were chosen to play for at the beginning of the year. This is one of those unwritten rules, and methinks, a good one.
Sometimes call ups are not available as there are conflicts with practices or games either on the same day or at the same time. The Devil’s team ran into this dilemma recently when they lost their only goalie. They had to frantically scramble to find a substitute who was not already committed to play elsewhere. They were fortunate to find a willing and more than able substitute from a nearby town. A few procedural hoops needed to be jumped through, but when all was said and done the emergency back up performed admirably. She has backstopped the team through a few games while the regular keeper was on the mend. This weekend may mark the return of the original netminder depending on how well her injury has healed. After this weekend the team has a two-week hiatus so the jury is still out on whether or not the regular goaltender should rest for one more game just to be safe. Ultimately, at this age, we have to rely on the player to tell us whether or not he/she is ready to step back on the ice. We’re all just glad this has been temporary.
Back in the Boy’s division, the situation is a little more complicated, as three of the missing players in question are not going to return, leaving the team at the higher level permanently short. The Boy’s team, however, is also short two players for an extended period due to injury. One suggested solution is to permanently move a player (or two) from each of the lower levels up one level higher. The problem with this “solution” is that we are more than 3/4 of the way through the season and team dynamics have been created; at least at the two lower levels where no one has quit. Rather than just one team being affected, the proposition is to affect the balance on all of the teams. Meetings have already been held between league officials and team coaches. Initial indications were that there would be no movement of players; presumably to maintain the aforementioned team balance. However, now there are rumblings, significant rumblings at that, indicating that there will be permanent player movement; which to me makes no sense. While I agree that every player should have an opportunity to play at the highest level he or she is capable; I don’t believe one standard (i.e. team commitment) should be sacrificed for another (i.e. personal development).
We often rightly say that this game should be governed by what is best for the kids. In this case, I don’t believe mixed messages are the answer. Now, rather than one team in turmoil, there will be three as each team will see the departure and introduction of new players. Judging by the rumblings, this is already happening. While difficult, I believe the top team should simply play the hand they’ve been dealt or more accurately, the one they’ve dealt themselves. The coaching staff of this team should do their best to turn these negatives into positives; make this situation a rallying cry and encourage the team fight through. After all, it’s not supposed to be about winning or losing; but simply competing.
But alas, my inclination is that there are other factors at play here. Records, reputations and personalities are involved, as always. Minor hockey yet again becomes soap opera with behind the scenes conversations and back-door deals amidst kids who are supposed to be playing a simple Winter game with their peers. And so, in the grand scheme of things, perhaps I shouldn’t really care, but the higher lesson here, for my Boy and Devil at least, is about commitment to your team and teammates. I’m prepared to stand behind that principle as I’m confident it will serve them well into the future.
Now let’s just get back to skating, passing, shooting, scoring!
The Boy and the Devil have both been on the ice a bunch this week. Both have seen some team and personal success.
The Boy’s team won all three of their games bringing their record in the last ten games to 8 wins, two ties and only one loss. This week’s victories included one against the top team in the league, which is important as they’d lost their previous three to the same side. We’ve all a pretty good sense that any playoff run will have to go through this team, as it has the past three seasons, so you don’t want to have lost all of your games against them during the regular season. This loss marked only their second of the entire season to this point. Suffice it to say, they are strong. But now we all know they can and have been beaten.
The Boy, for his part, picked up a few points, a few big hits and a few shifts on defence, which is all fun for him and me alike; though I don’t poke fun at his unique backwards skating technique quite as much as I used to. To say he was unorthodox would be kind. At no point could you say he lacked effort, but he certainly wasn’t going to get any style points either. That being said, what he lacks in style, he generally makes up in hockey sense so he’s able to compensate and generally be well positioned. Going way back to his brief stint as a goalie, he’s always been somewhat defensive-minded, which has served him well. As they say, good defence breeds good offence. In fact, the team’s recent wins can be attributed to their stronger defensive play.
The Devil’s team for their part won two of their four games during the week, including two wins against a fairly strong rival who sit just behind them in the regular season standings. In one of their two losses, which I was unable to attend, I’m told they outplayed the other team for all but a few minutes in their third period which lead to their downfall. In all, they have managed to vault themselves up to third place in the ten team league.
Yesterday’s game, a 3-2 victory, saw the Devil score a pretty goal which would end up being the game winner. She and one of her teammates broke into the opposing team’s zone on a two on one rush with the Devil charging hard to the net without the puck. Her comrade to her left feathered a pass under the defender’s stick and to a spot that appeared to be beyond the Devil’s reach. But she lunged forward with her stick in one hand and was able to redirect the puck towards the net on her backhand. Lo and behold the frozen black disk made its way to the back of the waiting cage. I’m pretty sure the Devil was as surprised as we onlookers. Surprise turned to jubilation as we all realized it was indeed a goal making the score 3-1 with only a few minutes left in the game. The other team would come back to score another goal of their own. However, they ran out of time as the home team was able to secure the win.
After a hectic week, the Boy has the day off. The Devil was supposed to play, but poor weather forced their intended opponents from the south to cancel their trip and subsequently the game. So she is at practice now; which is likely fine with the coach who will always welcome a chance to hone skills and strategies. The same happened for the Boy earlier in the week. Winter weather certainly can play a factor in the scheduling and rescheduling of games.
A busy week now gives way to a couple of slow weeks as we hit the holidays. The boys have two games between now and Christmas while the girls only have one. The boys do have a tournament between Christmas and New Years before heading into the final regular season push before the playoffs. Still plenty of hockey to play for both as we’re really only about halfway through the season. It’s nice to see both teams rounding into shape and both kids enjoying the recent runs.
I pulled penalty box duty at one of the Boy’s games on the weekend as hockey parents are generally required to do a couple of times a year. I was lucky to only be tasked with filling in the game sheet and not running the clock. The clock is an odd and unpredictable bit of technology that is a little tough to pick up when you only run it once or twice every twelve months. Each arena inexplicably has a slightly different clock configuration with a lengthy list of instructions for what should be the most basic of functions. For example, if you need to add a goal for either the home or visiting team you press Set, then you press “home goal” or “visitor goal”, then you press Yes, then you press plus one. Should this not simply be a one-button process? Running a clock at a minor hockey game should not require a University degree.
The game sheet, by comparison, is generally a much simpler job as you just need to record any goals, assists or penalties. The penalty codes are defined on the back of the game sheet; they too are fairly self explanatory (Hooking – HKG, Tripping – TR, etc.) The challenge in this job comes when you are managing the game sheet for boys ‘ games at the Bantam level or higher, where the number of penalties are directly proportional to the amount of testosterone and adrenaline multiplied by the number of boys on the ice and then further multiplied by the mood of the ref for that particular game. Prior to the game on the weekend, the head referee asked me if I was familiar with all of the hand signals for penalties. In retrospect, this should have been my first clue as to the way the game would be called. The game started pretty quietly with a goal for the home team…a penalty or two for the visitors. Then the flood gates opened. Before I knew it the entrance to the penalty box started to resemble the revolving door at the Hilton. Tripping, hooking, high-sticking, slashing, roughing and even an out of the ordinary kneeing. The hand signals were flying fast and furious. My right hand started to cramp up from the excessive writing. I began to worry about running out of ink in my pen. Sixteen penalties would be called up until the 0:19 point in the third period, when there was one final flourish.
With the score 4-2 for the home side, the visitors decided to let out their frustrations by roughing up a player in the corner to the right of their net. The roughed up player scrambled to his feet, flinging his arms in self-defence. In turn, one of his teammates came rumbling in to defend him; knocking an opposing player to the ice and promptly smothering him in a bear hug worthy of a WWE event. Yet another two players witnessing these antics decided to put in their two cents during the melee. The referee took out his little notepad and began tallying the damage in terms of the penalties to be allotted. The net result was three fighting majors and two misconducts totalling 35 minutes in penalties. Cue more ink from my depleted writing utensil. Ultimately the fighting majors would also carry nine games in suspensions. Now one could argue that all of this could have been avoided by more conscientious and fleet of foot linesmen. It was also surmised that perhaps the referee was put in a suspending mood by some catcalls from the stands. Regardless, the game sheet was in danger of needing an addendum. I, on the other hand (no pun intended), was in need of a deep finger massage.
One other small highlight from the game in question was the arrival of the Boy in the penalty box to serve one of the several Interference penalties that were called. Upon his departure, the Boy said to me “Watch the hit I deliver when I get back on the ice! If the ref wants interference, he’ll get it all right.” True to his word, the Boy leapt back on to the rink and proceeded to skate around the opposing teams net to lay a very solid check on a visiting player, leaving him in a heap. I beamed to my penalty box companion running the clock, “He said he was gonna do that.”
Fast forward about 18 hours to the Devil’s game; another opportunity for me to take a place in the penalty box. This time I decided to put my intellect to the test by taking on the game clock. In stark contrast to the night before, this Bantam BB mostly non-contact girls hockey game saw my penalty box mate only have to deal with a meagre five penalties in a 2-0 victory for the home team. I, on the other hand, deftly managed to screw up the clock, when what I assumed was a two minute penalty turned into a four minute penalty. There was no way I could figure out how to delete and re-enter a penalty, much less correct it – detailed, step-by-step instructions or not. We would just have to relay the time of the end of the penalty to the coaches via the officials. Otherwise, this was a relatively quiet game from a score-keeping perspective. I did get a first hand report that the Devil tallied an assist on one of her team’s two goals.
All in all, I much prefer hurling catcalls, I mean constructive criticism, with the other parents from the stands; making sure, of course, that I properly gauge the mood of the ref and limit the hurling to a justifiable/semi-tolerable amount. I don’t want some other poor schmuck on the game sheet to blame me for his/her carpal tunnel syndrome.