Simple rules for the hockey spectator
By Warren Tabachnick
“Just shoot it!”
Those three words can be heard among the hockey spectator crowd at almost every game, at every level, from Mites on up to the pros. If you are fortunate enough to play the game—or know someone who does—you are well aware of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into the sport.
Hockey players know how frustrating the game can be. Picture this: You’ve got what feels like 40 lbs or so of equipment on your body and a full head of steam as you zip your way up the boards, seeking to find the back of the net with that slapshot. Just as you’re winding up to take that shot, along comes the defenseman or back checker and—wham!—the puck is gone from your stick with a quick poke check and your scoring drive has been shut down. (For the older player, it can be especially disheartening as those offensive rushes can be hard to come by.)
If checking is part of your game, look out! A well-placed bodycheck could very well put you on your butt as you watch your opponent force a turnover, on a scoring drive back into your zone.
Goaltenders probably have it the toughest. Wearing equipment that amounts to about 25% of their body weight, these athletes must be in tip-top shape. They must have incredible strength and stamina, possess tremendous focus and vision, as well as the ability to anticipate the dekes and moves designed to trick him or her into getting out of position that their opponents worked so hard on in practice.
As the father of a goalie who in his younger years assumed the role of tendy for his high school hockey team, I have firsthand knowledge of the huge responsibility that rests squarely on their shoulders. Even with 5 skaters on the ice, a defensive breakdown means all eyes turn to the goalie to keep that puck out of the net. If he/she makes the save, they’re the hero of the day; if not, the full impact of that unfortunate goal (or loss of the game) is felt. Even in today’s politically correct climate, where the feelings of teammates or coaches are often left unsaid, a bad goal or loss can take an emotional toll.
To the hockey spectator who thinks that hockey is an easy game to play, think again. You try and attempt to put a three-inch piece of rubber into a 4′ by 6′ net—that’s usually guarded by a large individual wearing huge pads—with a stick, while traveling 30 mph on ice against 6 intimidating opponents whose sole purpose is to stop you or make you fall (or in some cases feel a world of hurt).
So the next time you hear or are about to yell, “Just shoot it!” keep this in mind: Playing hockey can be extremely difficult and frustrating. Which makes it the coolest game on earth.
Warren Tabachnick is the Editor & Publisher of CrossIceHockey.com—Where Rec Hockey LIVES. He divides his time between watching the game and attempting to play it.