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Daily Dish: Respect of the Game - Junior Hockey News

Published: Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013
By: Stephen Heisler  |  Web site: JuniorHockey.com

"TAKE HIM OUT," a coach screamed at his bench.  The direction was heard across the rink, as the team made the line change, just after an opposing player scored his second goal of the night.

Take him out, is that what the game has become? Whatever happened to being happy with just knocking a guy off the puck and when did we cross the line from sport to combat?

Take him out tells me that the coach should be nowhere near the bench. If a player follows such a suggestion and ends another young man's hockey dream, should such a hit be celebrated or prosecuted?

Junior players are at this level of play to get a shot at a future. The problem is that so many of these kids lose sight of the end goal once they lace up the skates. Common sense, sportsmanship and decency often take a back seat to making a highlight reel. Every team seems to have a player that will often cross the line; it's up to the rest of the team to keep that guy under control.

Back in the fall of 1996 I had the bright idea of convincing the Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds to come to Alaska to play our team. We had just won the Junior C National Championship (in a final over the Seattle Ironmen) and were getting ready to play our first season in the Western States Hockey League. Obviously we were a far cry from being able to compete with the powerful Thunderbirds, but the invitation was accepted.

Our team was made up of Alaska players that had gone outside to play junior and, for one reason or another, came back home. We certainly did not have any business on the ice with players like San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau and a number of other future NHL players.

We assigned our most tenacious defenseman to shadow Marleau for the entire weekend, that kid's name was Joey Johnson. Johnson was all of 5-4 and maybe 150 pounds and certainly not a physical threat to the 6-2, 200+ pound future NHL All-Star.

During the second period break of our second game with Seattle, then Thunderbirds coach Don Nachbaur could be heard in the tunnel screaming at his team because the WHL team had only a 4-2 lead on our Alaskans.

Johnson was unable to stop Marleau from scoring a natural hat trick in the 3rd period and we lost that game 10-2.

Nachbaur had a bench full of players that would skate through a wall for him and he never sent anybody to take care of Johnson. For the first two periods our goalie, Stefan Sanders, did his best impression of a brick wall, shutting down shot after shot form Nachbaur's prospects. Did the WHL veteran coach send somebody to run at Sanders? No way.

After the game, Nachbaur was all praises for the play of our team, and for the way that Johnson was able to neutralize Marleau.

We played, they played, and they won. It was done the right way. If two guys decided to dance and one ended up on the ice, it was over.  After the series, both teams met in the lobby of the Soldotna Sports Center for autographs and pictures. Johnson was still at Marleau's side as the two became fast friends. I'm sure that the memory of the experience brings a smile to both men's' faces today.

Sportsmanship, camaraderie, and great memories are assets that make hockey so much better than other sports. Let's get the word respect back into the equation. Players need to stand together against bad operators or donkey coaches that suggest otherwise.

Direction has to come from the top and that is USA Hockey's John Vanbiesbrouck and Marc Boxer. Somebody needs to enforce the standards and give the level of play some strict direction. The game is under a microscope and the clock is ticking.

JuniorHockey.com is the premier website dedicated to delivering the latest news and developing stories from junior hockey across North America, as well as providing online tools for junior hockey players and prospects. With over 300,000 views last month, Juniorhockey.com is the internet's leading source of junior hockey news and information. 

Stephen Heisler resides in Puerto Penasco, Mexico with his wife, Maria, and their two children, Sonia and Tomas. Tune in to his Mexico based Classic Rock Station, GoPenasco Radio.


posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 7:42am
David Lawson says:
Stephen you are entirely on target with this article. I love to see a very physical game and if there happens to be a fight arise, well so be it. Get it done and over with and let the hockey game continue, its part of the game. But to target a single player for their ability to score or keep you from scoring is criminal. I have witnessed both types of play for many years in Wichita Falls. For a long time we had an explosive rivalry with the Tornado. I hated playing them not because they usually beat the crap out of us, but because they exhibited behavior, in my opinion, that was detrimental to the game. And we all know who was behind it. But this past weekend we played a two game home stand against the Tornado. Their behavior was steller. Yes they won both games, but they were not easy wins and they played the game with their sticks and not their fists. Im not sure why, but its always easier to accept defeat if you lost to a better hockey team and not because your players get beat up.

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 8:11am
Stephen Heisler says:
Someone suggested that Tony and I have linked New Year's Resolutions... he coaches hockey the right way and I give him a ton of respect for doing so. 30 days in and we are still on the same page.

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 10:29am
Andrew Hochstein says:
We'll see how well Tony coaches this weekend when they get here

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 10:47am
Stephen Heisler says:
I heard he has a huge BBQ planned for the 5th Seasons parking lot.

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 11:06am
Andrew Hochstein says:
No Tony cancelled it....Frankenfeld and CSH are having a meeting there about how great Amarillo is..they sent you an invitation but I suppose you didn't get it? Damn post office.

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 12:58pm
Christian Poulsen says:
Stephen...I promise I won't use it a 3rd time today...but
"Word Up"!...Urban Dictionary definitions 1, 2, and 3

well, one clarification in my mind..."rest of the team" means Coaches and Captains then Teammates

posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 1:19pm
Jr Ruiz says:
Good one, Stephen...I can still remember something like this way back when I played High School Hockey back in Boston over 50 years ago, it was called a "Code of Conduct". It was something that was always adhered to and never compromised by coaches, players and also included the fans attending the games. But over the years, like everything else, it has seemed to be disregarded and abused by some at every level of hockey today. Their vision statements have been blurred by arrogance, ignorance, egos, self indulgence, lack of passion and just a plain uneducated disrespect for the game. And as a great Canadian philosopher once said, "Remember, we're all in this together"!


posted Jan. 30th, 2013 - 8:45pm
Ty Smitts says:
Good article, all coaches from day 1 should teach and preach respect. Respect every aspect of the game from the rules to your team and coaches all the way to the refs and off-ice officials.

a lesson learned long ago that I still believe in today is that you cannot cheat the game

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