What ever happened to ice hockey being a full-contact sport? Whether in the NHL or elsewhere, physical play is down from its hey-day in the 1970s. Fundamental ‘Canadian hockey’ skills like playing the man and finishing the checks have been replaced with the stick sweep, angling the man to the boards (but not ‘into’ them), and finesse play – which is often accompanied with a general apprehension to be the first player into the corner to retrieve the puck.
Since I have been covering the Vancouver Giants — and these comments are not exclusive to the Giants but address hockey in the WHL — clearly there is void of skill and basic knowledge within our junior ranks about playing physical hockey, aka ‘Canadian hockey’.
It seems to have started with the historic Summit Series in September 1972. On one side, a gang of out-of-shape NHL All Stars was thrown together late in the summer to defend Canada’s honour and supremacy in the game of ice hockey. On the other side, a tight-knit group of superbly conditioned Russian athletes with exemplary skating and puck handling skills was assembled behind a hard-nosed coaching regime. Aside from the hockey tournament itself, the Summit Series was enveloped in political controversy from the get-go. It stood for the struggle between two distinctly different ways-of-life, with the winner bringing home the bragging rights.
But the Summit Series provided more than political bragging rights — it rocked international hockey to its core. It gave both sides a rude awakening about how the game could be played so differ Read more»