A New Era

By Jason Hegler
The tragic events of September 11th, and their aftermath, have directly affected all aspects of life including the world of sports. There is a heightened awareness regarding safety procedures at major sporting events as individuals work diligently to implement new security measures. This period in history may ultimately lead to the way we perceive sports and athletes in general.

During the past week, I had the privilege to drive across Canada. I passed through numerous cities such as London and Dryden, Ontario which are the hometowns of Brendan Shanahan and Chris Pronger along with various other hockey players at all levels. I really attempted to visualize how their lives have changed during the recent global turmoil. Many Canadian born players now reside in the United States and hockey, as with other sports, requires a great deal of travel. How do they feel regarding the uncertainty of our times? How does the time away from family and friends affect them individually and professionally when they step onto the ice? Are they concerned about the growing need for increased security at games? These questions, along with others, occupied a great deal of time during my forty hour drive. Even though it was difficult to attain any meaningful resolutions, I rationalized that they must feel like the majority of North Americans……sad, angry and uncertain. This train of thought inevitably left me yearning for the days of old.

Remember when we didn’t have to worry about who was sitting next to us at the hockey game? Remember when all we had to argue about was players salaries, our youth programs and whether or not hockey was an economic reality for various Canadian cities? Certainly, these issues still exist and will continue to do so in the years to follow. However, this year, unlike any other, I feel fortunate just to be able to follow a game that I truly cherish.

Many Canadians relish the game of hockey. It provides opportunities to bond and communicate with family and friends. It enables us to escape from our everyday lives and, for many people, adheres to our identity. This is precisely why we need to focus on the sheer enjoyment during these troubled times. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recently reported that more terror attacks could be launched within the next few days. I am grateful that there are athletes travelling to various cities, leaving their families for weeks on end in order to allow us to attain a sense of normalcy. We need to embrace this outlet and appreciate the athletes and the sport they represent. It is also fundamental for us to acknowledge their concerns and fears as the months ahead unfold.

Overall, hockey will take on a new meaning for many individuals this winter……from watching our children skate on local ponds to turning on Hockey Night In Canada. Hopefully, this will permit us to develop a growing appreciation for a magnificent game and the freedom it symbolizes.