Sunday, July 31, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (K)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR –
SAN DIEGO (PART J) in July, 2016.

He had the impression that the trend further helped and molded the blending process of individual player’s talents, teams, playing styles, preparation, and more, as Mekkar referred to it. Now, all of the big boys (NHL) play the game and follow suit in this ground breaking path along with other sports, like basketball, etc. that was began in great measure by the WHA. Perhaps Mekkar thought, unlike many other people, that he caught a glimpse of a future big picture way ahead of time in some respects. Well, it is important to note that the teenager was partially named after the shaman who helped deliver him at a precarious birth, after all. Could this be a factor? Did Mekkar have any special insight abilities that were not developed yet? Only time would tell. [Playing Hockey The World Over … wha.htm; whahockey.com]

Lasse’s best friend, Mekkar, became more excited and antsy as game time approached. He usually got revved up prior to the start of a match similar to a boxer warming up in his dressing room before arriving at ringside in tow with their entourage. Despite the certainty that Mekkar’s recent injuries would significantly cut down his playing time didn’t matter in this regard. Added to the fact he would get to face off against one of favorite hockey players Andre “The Magician” Lacroix. Mekkar’s eyes would be peeled on Lacroix’s number seven jersey. The number seven is also worn by the icon in the team logo. Mekkar didn’t believe this was a coincidence but intentional to honor the superstar of the home team. The youngster thought that Lacroix was so smooth, fluid, and made the game look so effortlessly on the ice. Mekkar also disagreed with one of Andre’s previous team’s coaches that knocked on Lacroix’s lack of skating ability. The arctic warrior esteemed his Mariner rival’s on ice movement as elusive and plus he could stickhandle in a phone booth to set up goals. [whahof.com]

Statistically Lacroix and Mekkar were fairly similar in size, yet they had different physical builds. Mekkar was stockier and one could hear the crunch of the razor sharp skate cutting into the surface as a result of a powerful stride that took a bit to get going to get to full speed. While The Magician or Magic Man as Andre was also referred to, seemed to float over the ice in comparison with a wick, wick sound of his skates in flight always looking to make a play. Lacroix, in Mekkar’s mind, resembled as if he knew where everyone was on the ice at all times. It also appeared that Andre consistently found the open man with a tape-to-tape pass. Lacroix had many capabilities that Mekkar lacked in his own skill set and thus the reason why San Diego’s number seven was one of his favorites. Mekkar admired strengths and talents in areas that were weaknesses in his game and used that to improve in those abilities. Alf commented that Andre had qualities that were totally different and even the complete opposite from his older sibling. This was very evident on the frozen pond too. Lacroix wasn’t called The Magician when he had the puck on his stick for no reason!

The match began but Mekkar was not in the starting lineup as he hoped. The adrenaline was pumping in Mekkar’s body as he was still dealing with his seriously injured right hand suffered in the match right before this one. The team trainers did an incredible job wrapping the hand extremely well and put Mekkar’s glove over it. However, they were unable to tie it down and left it, as is, for the duration. They were able to hide the extensive tape job inside the glove and told Mekkar to not tie down the left gauntlet either. This way it would not stand out as odd and possibly keep it from the immediate view of opposing players. The idea was to not make the hand a target for further injury through slashes or other devious stickwork.

Fortunately, the Selects opposition on this evening was more of a skating team and not a flat out brawling; goon squad that Mekkar’s team encountered earlier on this tour. The Mariners had some individuals who could play the rougher style if desired, but thankfully for Mekkar’s sake they didn’t.

Trouble was Mekkar’s injury made him less effective in his on ice responsibilities than he normally was. The other physical aspects of meds, plus alcoholic drink, were used in combination to create a pain numbing effect. Added to that, his fatigue combined with that impairment made The Arctic Warrior more unpredictable and outright goofy in his behavior.

The first time Mekkar climbed over the boards for his shift in the game was during a stoppage in play. After a score by the hometown club and before the drop of the puck at the center ice dot, Mekkar looked at the Mariners’ center ice logo. Part of the emblem resembled a wooden steering wheel of an old fashioned boat. The somewhat out of his mind youngster chanted in an audible voice, “Ho Ho Ho and a bottle of rum”. The referee nearby told him to shut up as the puck was about to be dropped for the face-off. But. Mekkar, rebel that he is, defied authority and continued the same chant again. The ref responded with the same answer in a stronger tone to, “Zip it or you will get an unsportsmanlike penalty.” Wouldn’t you know it, Mekkar did it once again. Alf called his older brother a stupid moron from the bench. Lasse shouted his own response. Since, Lasse had been ready and waiting for the face off to take place. Before playing one official second of this match Mekkar had incurred a trip to the sin bin. It was for delay of game infraction against his team. Guess who scored approximately forty-five seconds later as a result of Mekkar’s two minute minor penalty – Lacroix. The Selects coaching staff was not amused and after the goal against they made Mekkar skip a few regular shifts and get comfortable sitting on the bench. It was punishment for taking a foolish penalty and costing his team.

Later on in the game, during another stoppage in play, Mekkar had the gall to skate near Andre and offer him money to purchase the Mariners star’s game sweater right after the match. The response back to Mekkar was not what he expected at all. The reply went something like the following, “One previous owner deserted us during the season. We, for a time had no owner and were playing for free. So, there is a possibility I might not be able to replace it or any of my gear with the way things are.” 

Friday, July 29, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (J)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR –
SAN DIEGO (PART I) in July, 2016.

During Mekkar’s heyday most, not all, arenas only had higher plexiglass above the dasher and boards normally at the far ends of the ice. That is where the majority of shots on net are taken and they appeared to be much heavier panes of glass unlike what is used in the current time. There was usually less, or none at all, glass extruding above the boards on both sides of the ice surface even with respect to the penalty boxes. As one might guess fans took advantage of this aspect in many places. They also took liberties by pouring beer and throw food, as well as, toss an assortment of items onto and at opposing players. Especially, enemy players who would be serving their infraction time in the sin bin in those days.

Mekkar experienced this phenomenon on a first-hand basis since he was a frequent visitor to the penalty box. Alf called it, “His home away from home!” Mekkar was on many occasions a target of fan wrath for that type of mistreatment. Being doused with items while doing his time in the box, waiting to get free, was a regular occurrence. Much of the time hometown security agents and police officers assigned to work that particular area during the match were reluctant to try to stop that type of unruly fan behavior. At times, they would willfully ignore the actions, laugh and snicker, or watch gleefully at the abuse against visiting players. Surprisingly, this also happened in his home rink also because of his style of play and unconcern of making people angry while the game was ongoing. Mekkar did not miss being the mark of repetitive drenching by foreign objects after his hockey career was over.

A person has to remember that hockey is a sport that has allowed fans to throw hats onto to ice. The hats are a symbol for a hat trick (three goal performance) in one game by a hometown player. Next, the hats are gathered by the arena crew and normally donated to charity. Other objects are deposited on the ice also such as an octopus for the first goal by the home club in a playoff game to signify an old standard. The tradition began in Detroit when it only took eight victories to win the Stanley Cup before the first NHL expansion in nineteen sixty-seven. These are practices and rituals that have been present in hockey for many years. [Wikipedia; The Hockey News]

Since, several arenas at that time had much shorter, and in a few cases no, glass rising from the top of the boards on the sides of the rink. Mekkar figured the excuse might have been used that shots on goal were not aimed there. Plus, it could be a quicker turn around process to convert to another scheduled activity in the venue. Younger fans, along with their families, that sat in those seats would often be seen with baseball gloves to catch deflected pucks. That is, if they could react fast enough. Mekkar thought it was mainly for their own personal protection because a wayward puck travelling at high speeds can maim a person. If that vulcanized rubber disc hits the right spot it can kill too, especially an individual who is unprepared, unaware, or not paying attention. Sadly, this instance has materialized on occasion with dire consequences for the victim.

Well, at the rink Mekkar ran into and started a brief chat with a couple of the home team equipment handling employees. He mentioned off-handedly about how his squad (the Selects) didn’t have to bring so many of own toiletries, medications, drinking water, alcohol, daily use items, knickknacks, and more on this trip. Mainly because they could find and purchase those needed items here in the city. Mekkar brought up the subject related to stories he heard from other veteran players back home who performed for various travelling national and representative squads. More specifically, when those vets played in matches in other not so modern parts of the world. He commented about team members, players, officials, coaches, and other club employees were unable to find what they needed when they required it. The little band got a chuckle out of that one and reassured him that things were plentiful here in San Diego. [sportsillustrated.cnn.com; The Hockey News]

That was a relief to Mekkar and he did compliment those employees during their exchange. These little distractions were not large considerations occupying the mind or negative issues on this tour. Mekkar said that the trip organizers, outside of the game schedule, and even more so the host teams all took good care of the visiting Selects. The teen from the arctic understood this because he helped carry out and operate similar administrative functions for a previous squad; he also played for, prior to this journey.

Mekkar was well aware that home tilts against international squads could attract more fans than non-rivalry regular matches on the schedule. The employees told him how the Mariners drew a packed house, or close to it in comparison, in a previous match versus the USSR. It was brought up that the home side played one of their best games ever. However, San Diego received the shaft along with no power-plays due to the referee bias against them. The Soviet referee was accompanying with his own squad, so go figure! They mentioned that there were no homer calls for the Mariners that night!

The good draw of these visiting teams from overseas was the reasoning for continuing to book them on the schedule. These exhibition matches were a novelty for the fans and brought in extra cash and profits. This was especially key for some of the more financially strapped clubs struggling at the gate. It was pretty much expected to be a fairly even exchange of travelling and touring teams going over to the other’s countries’ overseas and vice versa. Play games in each other’s backyard where these matches would bring in more fans and all involved would rake in the dough. Similar to dealing with tourists if you treat them well, they will probably come back. Another option, they could pass the word onto their acquaintances that also might travel there. This was becoming a regular standard, led by the World Hockey Association, all over the hockey globe. The WHA never tried to hide the fact they were truly attempting to be a world league. Well as much as they could afford, since there wasn’t the stability of the NHL. [Wikipedia; WHA San Diego Mariners Historical Site – sdmariners.htm; Playing Hockey The World Over … wha.htm; billsportsmaps.com; The Hockey News; whahockey.com; hockeyfights.com]

The arctic youngster was quite aware of this trend because he was present at a few of those events back home. That was before participating himself in a number of these special matches. Mekkar already knew about the accompanying extra local media hype before and during the attraction as he had been part of it on multiple levels. Thus, it resulted in increased swelled size crowds over the norm during the festivities and exhibition games. The North American visiting clubs did the smart thing by bring back local and national heroes and star athletes as part of the games exchanges. When they came over to Mekkar’s part of the world wisdom and profits prevailed. Former players would be included that the hometown fans would recognize. Bring the stars and fans will come! That normally meant great gains for the paying gate and regular occurrence of sellouts too! Mekkar felt that these overseas tilts benefitted the hockey industry on a worldwide basis more than anyone could have predicted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (I)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR –
SAN DIEGO (PART H) in July, 2016.

This era was a time that furthered a lot of social change, which also included sports. It started a trend to take the best players available based on their skills and talent regardless of nationality. The idea was that, if done properly, both styles could be blended together. Mekkar wanted to give a shout out to those who really pioneered this pattern like Borje Salming and others. The World Hockey Association was basically the first star chef in the hockey world to truly mix those individual player ingredients (talents) to form a great drink or meal (successful team). This would forever alter the fastest game on ice as we know it. [billsportsmaps.com; whahockey.com; The Hockey News; Playing Hockey The World Over … wha.htm; Wikipedia; hcokeyfights.com]     

Back home, Mekkar was taught that the World Championships and Olympics were the real testing grounds to resolve this debate. Thus, the priority on those huge events. The results from this tour would answer a number of questions in Mekkar’s mind. Despite the fact the Selects were much less experienced and younger than their professional counterparts. Mekkar thought other matches against collegiate and major junior clubs later on in the schedule would probably be a better indicator to test the Selects players at a similar level. It turned out that the teenager was right on the money with his analysis.

Not to discount another overlooked item by Mekkar and his teammates regarding this jaunt through the North American continent. The small expense and easy accessibility for the pro teams here to scout fresh, new, and young talent. Potential draft selection by major league clubs all over the map was already occurring but this is when the floodgates opened wide. In some cases the farm team or one that trained and developed the player up through the young ranks could be compensated. In other instances, the sports federations back in that individual’s home nation would be bribed with a handsome sum of dough. Then, that individual hockey rights were now owned by a particular franchise for a specific amount of time. Not surprisingly every member of the Selects squad was chosen, acquired, or put on some protected talent list in some form or another. A few of the professional teams did this, even by some of the Selects opponents on this tour that saw the future potential and were impressed by their poise.   

All of the home pro teams on this journey versus the Selects were stubborn and staunch in their way and all wanted to make a show of defending their turf as comparable to gang warfare. This was true especially for players that were on the bubble of claiming, keeping, and not losing the last few roster spots on their own squads. Since training camp had past and a few of these teams were in the middle of their long season no one wanted to be shipped off to the minors. Think of a peacock strutting their stuff to be the most noticeable, attractive, and ultimately selected to stay with the big club, as Mekkar referred to it. Mekkar was amused by all the posturing behavior and had encountered this before. This activity of what is called talk, but talk is cheap. Only results matter to Mekkar, everything else leading up to it is a crock.

Mekkar also saw a couple more main positives that the newer circuit brought to the realm of hockey. He was hoping to grow up fast enough and take advantage of this competitive, rapidly changing atmosphere for himself and his own personal benefit. The pay at home in the top league was a joke in comparison to what he could possibly earn over here in North America. On the other hand, some scouts had doubts about a positive transition for Mekkar. Comments such as could he take all of the punishment as an outsider trained in that other style of play? What about the adjustment to much longer length of schedule? How would he fare come playoff off time? Or would the youngster already be suffering from a number of injuries to limit his effectiveness on the ice?

As the team bus was coming nearer to the San Diego International Sports Arena, Mekkar looked out the window and saw a large advertising billboard high in the sky which caught his eye. He strained to read the hockey slogan on it. It said, “Mean. Mad, Menacing, Major League Mariners” on it with the picture of a player and their logo. First of all, Mekkar thinks the San Diego Mariners skating Sailor with a boat steering wheel in the background logo is fantastic and one of the best in hockey history. [WHA San Diego Mariners Historical Site – sdmariners.htm; whahockey.com; sportslogos.net; fanbase.com/San-Diego-Mariners; Wikipedia] Mekkar thought to himself Oh, No! I hope they are not that type of goon squad that we faced earlier. It was not supposed to be this type of rough and tumble affair, well according to his own preliminary report and analysis. Yet, you never know because this is the WHA. A nineteen seventies hockey version of the wild, wild west trying to be different and at the same time insert itself into the public sports consciousness. Mekkar needed a break from that type of physical abuse especially to his now badly damaged paw. Next he went deep into his memory bank and thought about home and how tough it was living there. He recalled how you don’t get a second chance to make first impression with a polar bear. The bear is either scared and flees or is desperate, hungry, scared, surprised, or annoyed. In other words, the white beast could look at you as a threat, an object to tear apart, or maybe as a snack. Since they can usually sense, hear, and smell a human and depending on the great white bear’s mood be violently aggressive and attack. After dwelling on this thought Mekkar felt better and became inspired for that evening’s matchup.

Due to Mekkar’s pre-tour research he discovered a few items about sports teams in San Diego. He heard and read about statements, on more than one occasion, that clubs from America’s Finest City have a habit of choking when the pressure is on. That there is a supposed sports curse on teams as well as an inability to claim a modern North American major league professional sports championship. The last one was the American Football League Chargers in nineteen sixty-three. Of course, the exception is the San Diego Sockers and minor league San Diego Gulls who both won many titles, but both are not in the big three sports on the continent. [Wikipedia]

Nonetheless, when the Selects arrived to the arena, Mekkar first went out to survey the rink itself. It was his normal custom, and part of Mekkar’s pre-game ritual, for the specific scheduled game for that day or evening. Mekkar noticed the uncluttered boards. In most rinks then used by professional franchises in North America there was little and sometimes no signage. Advertising logos did not surround the rink at the highest levels, unlike today. The reasoning was that it was considered so minor league and extremely unprofessional back then. Now, it is the opposite perspective where the goal is to maximize all possible revenue streams. Mekkar then saw there was something that resembled chicken-wire in some areas, as he referred to it. Instead of Plexiglas, there were wire-mesh gates in top of the dasher and boards surrounding the rink. It existed where there might be protective netting or higher glass today. Mekkar shook his head and did a double-take to focus and confirm what he thought he just observed. Maybe, he was mistaken or hallucinating from the pain medications he was taking like candy for the injuries. Added to that the extra alcohol mixed in to wash them down or the fatigued state he was in. The tiredness had come back in full force and was affecting his senses greatly along with the other factors. Mekkar wanted to stay away from fans who could throw things or pour drinks on him through the wire as it was common during this era. [The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by Ed Willes, 2005] 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (H)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR –
SAN DIEGO (PART G) in July, 2016.

It was a good thing Mekkar didn’t have any sisters. Mekkar also loved the fact that the rebel league squads had an overall winning record versus NHL clubs in head-to-head exhibition competition. Whoever said the upstarts couldn’t hang with the established major leaguers? This mark ticked off the big boys (NHL) which Mekkar thinks resulted in the harsh surrender and absorption terms for the Qu├ębec Nordiques, New England (Hartford) Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, & Edmonton Oilers in the eventual merger. The longer the negotiations dragged on between the WHA and NHL the more screwed over the WHA squads were. That is, if the rival league hoped to have any of their teams be accepted into the fold later on by the more established NHL. [Wikipedia; Playing Hockey The World Over…what.htm; The Hockey News; billsportsmaps.com; whahockey.com; hockeyfights.com]

Even the Selects on this tour began to sense a black cloud of uncertainty that hung overhead some of the teams on the ice they faced. It showed in a bit of spillover in some of the opponent’s play as well. Mekkar had not yet made a previous correlation of the behind-the-scenes activity of the league and on ice product beforehand. Mekkar felt this pressure might have contributed to a measure of success on the part of the visiting Selects squad versus these WHA teams. His opinion is that off-ice and outside work structured environment distractions normally affect any individual’s job performance. Plus, hockey insiders knew about the instability surrounding the WHA.

What was the most disappointing to Mekkar about the 1979 consolidation and absorption by the NHL was not only the loss of major league hockey positions. Added to that, no WHA awards, records, or statistics compiled would be recognized by the NHL ever. Unlike the similar situation involving the recent NBA merger by taking on the ABA New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs. To Mekkar, it was like the top circuit (NHL) was intentionally trying to blot out any memories of the rival league. With that attempting to wipe out it existence or any of its accomplishments including the players who were there during its seven year life span. A great example of this attitude was the rejection of any WHA stars from the Canadian side in the 1972 Summit Series against the USSR. [Wikipedia; chidlovski.com; hhof.com/htmlTimeCapsule/GamesSummaryWHA1974; angelfire.com/tv2/rainbowcountry/1972]  More punishment for the upheaval caused by the upstart’s serious challenge to NHL supremacy, which by the way changed pro hockey forever.

As a result of this conviction on the part of Mekkar, he will never set foot into what he deems as the NHL dominated and controlled Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He makes a different distinction regarding the IIHF. He feels that The Hall is not complete nor a legit hockey shrine. Since it will admit some inductees with questionable credentials to meet certain candidate quotas. Even individuals that never played in the National Hockey League such as a few Russians and females.

Yet, the Hockey Hall of Fame directors have the gall to neglect and punish WHA stars that helped build the game for the current crop of today’s players. Mekkar attributes that attitude and misuse of judgment as unfair, corrupt, and frontier injustice. He refuses to accept it or their positions on personal grounds. Especially, when there are some more qualified applicants in the career pool that he feels would be much better choices for admission. These biases and what he speculates as a political double-standard and why Mekkar only adopts International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame (IIHF) honored members list. He regards that as the true register which includes and exhibits players, builders, and referees from all over the globe. Particular issues to Mekkar are unwavering and non-negotiable. The other arrogantly so called (NHL) Hockey Hall of Fame is nothing but a sham in Mekkar’s eyes. A testament to the claim of focusing on the center of the hockey universe, Toronto. It is an outward display dissing most everywhere else in the world outside North America and regarding them as nothing in the realm of hockey. [Wikipedia; triposo.com/poi/W__62255416; iihf.com/iihf-home/history/the-iihf/iihf-hall-of-fame.html; whahof.com/hofmembers.html]

Anyway, the World Hockey Association was attempting to be a proper world league and had future plans in place to carry this out. Many WHA clubs faced-off in a variety of matches against travelling National squads, top teams, and all-star contingents from a host of nations. These international matchups occurred in both formal and informal situations and exhibitions. Some of the outcomes which were reflected in reason season win-loss columns. Games materialized in different locales in many places even Tokyo, Japan. [angelfire.com/space/u_line/wha7778.htm]

There were formal matches that counted for more than just national, league, team, or individual pride. Those outcomes could affect the playoff positioning fate of a club. Thus, the results were definitely taken seriously. Those tilts exuded a realm of playoff intensity in them. Fortunately for the Selects their matchups did not count in the regular WHA standings or the tension would have been higher. The pairings against the Selects were mainly about continental and hometown dignity. There was still the need to prove which school or style of hockey, in a team sense and on an individual basis, was superior. Was it the strictly European/International or North American system? No one came up with a definite answer to that question.

Mekkar felt that it was a moot point anyway comparing which type of player was better between the two styles. To him the dividing lines were becoming more obscured and there would soon be players that would became like a hybrid type of athlete having the best attributes of both systems. The Arctic Warrior already possessed the mindset that these future athletes could have their origins from anywhere in the world. It turned out to be the case, since there are now ice hockey clubs and leagues in more than one hundred countries. Even in places no one would expect to see it such as in Mexico, Mongolia, and many nations.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (G)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR –
SAN DIEGO (PART F) in July, 2016.

This faster paced keep control of the puck as much as you can style of ice hockey was based on the Soviet five-man unit and Nordic models that are ingrained through the youth ranks there. It is a free flowing game in the words of former Edmonton Oilers coach and general manager Glen Sather who was part of the last National Hockey League dynasty in the nineteen eighties and nineteen ninety. Sather said that he borrowed and modified a system of hockey, to his roster of players that he learned through direct observation. It was rarely used during Sather’s playing career except when his squads faced off against opponents such as the WHA Winnipeg Jets. Also trips with his WHA Oilers overseas gave him much material for him to install and help insure Sather’s own team’s success. Of course, it is a boost to gather all the proper talent to execute the plan.

Some of the strategies used in Europe and other places were that young goalies and position players played multiple positions. They went through the skills, development, and training for everywhere on the ice, plus a lot to improve skating growing up. This meant, in some cases, filling in at other positions to help their squad in other areas - if needed due to a rash of injuries, etc. Understanding and appreciation was gained and respect was earned because each player could relate to all of the others on the club. Learning to speak english was huge during this time if an individual wanted to expand their horizons internationally and play in other circuits. For a long time goaltenders were just an afterthought in youth leagues because most kids wanted to be the main goal scorers and almost none would volunteer to be the netminder. This early version of hockey related cross position training put all through the same stuff and a minimum standard had to be met when they reached a certain age and level. There was no favoritism either, if you couldn’t cut it, there were limits at the next stage in the chain.

Sather instituted his fun and gun offense which was perfectly suited to the up-temp World Hockey Association. [Playing Hockey The World Over…wha.htm; whahockey.com; hockeyfights.com; Wikipedia; billsportsmaps.com; The Hockey News] Mekkar compares Sather’s approach to a few clubs and the wide open American Basketball Association. More specifically to the late nineteen eighties Loyola-Maramount Lions basketball team philosophy under coach Paul Westhead. There are other later examples of similar offense-first schemes such as Doug Moe’s Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns under Mike D’Antoni of the NBA. No matter what system is instituted it always takes awhile to put all of the right pieces in place. Glen also made maximum use of what hockey insiders consider as the fastest, as well as, best ice surface for hockey in the world at the Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton, Alberta.

The arena has a different corporate sponsor and a thus is known by another name nowadays because that is the current trend in the professional sports realm. A sense of tradition and history is no longer considered as important when there is money to be made. Mekkar is of the opinion it is one more indicator of the increased decline in society that has sold out to greed.

This hybrid style took off and took over the National Hockey League after the addition of four WHA teams to start the 1979-80 season. In truth, it was a mini-merger but the WHA clubs got the shaft and basically buildup their rosters from scratch. This afforded Sather with the opportunity to shape the Oilers in his image. Edmonton ended up obliterating the offensive record book with much success and championships. The next decade helped, along with the Eskimos, Drillers, etc. to turn the northern Alberta metropolis into the City of Champions.

There were clubs awarded in locations by the WHA that the NHL never even considered before and probably never would have. Some of these places included cities in the hotbed of hockey (Canada). Mekkar loves to read about history, especially sports history because he feels it is a partial reflection of society at large. He knows that a person can learn from study of the past and has heard the mantra many times, one who doesn’t learn from past history tend to repeat its mistakes over and over again. [Reason in Common Sense, volume 1 of The Life of Reason by George Santayana, 1905]

One of Mekkar’s favorite aspects regarding the upstart pro league (WHA) was the addition of sudden death overtime to determine victory in outcomes during the regular season. This greatly reduced the stranglehold in the amount of tie game results. Mekkar hated no clear winner and regarded them as worse than kissing your ugly sister. Who wants to do that?

Another trend and impetus happened during this period of time due to the rebel league’s influence. Individual players broke the mold and began to wear higher uniform numbers. In the past, especially if one was a rookie or young player trying to establish themselves in pre-season training camp. You didn’t want high jersey numbers unlike today. Otherwise it usually meant that player probably would not make the big club and would either be cut outright or demoted to the minors for seasoning. Thus, Mekkar donned low uniform numbers his whole hockey career depending on availability. Phil Esposito changed his uniform number to seventy-seven after his trade to the New York Rangers around this time. Even Wayne Gretzky didn’t always sport his now famous ninety-nine sweater. There are videos, photographs, roster lists, etc. of Gretzky wearing pro jerseys with the numbers nine, fifteen, seventeen, twenty before his well known standard ninety-nine. [whahockey.com; jerseydatabase.com; thirdstringgoalie.blogspot.com; youtube.com; wharacers.com; whahof.com]

Mekkar examines these factors as part of a cultural shift and people’s desire to get noticed. Everyone is aware of how an individual seeks to transcend all in many aspects of society today. He believes that if something gets mentioned frequently, it is because that concept or commodity stands out from the norm during its time. For example, Ground Chuck (Knox) football offense scheme was primarily run oriented. While at the same time, the National Football League was beginning its transition to a more pass-happy circuit with rule changes, etc. in that new direction. [Wikipedia]

Saturday, July 23, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (F)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR –
SAN DIEGO (PART E) in July, 2016.

Instead the new circuit had a philosophy of more offense or a faster paced, more offensive game which is better for the fans. Mekkar called it “A different, rarely seen approach in the Western Hemisphere at that time, up-tempo mode of play on the ice.” He, along with others, mainly saw it as due to the infusion of extensive outside talent from overseas and the States. That is, outside the confines of the Canadian border.

Mekkar liked the WHA for the main reason was that it created more opportunities to make a potential career out of hockey for him. If, he ended up getting that far. It wasn’t just some type of pipe dream for him as some scouts had told Mekkar that he had the potential to reach that level. The P-word. Potential, what? He hates that term. To Mekkar saying a person has potential in an area is like a person has the promising capability to intake air. To him, everyone has potential to accomplish great things in their life. The issue is whether an individual gets a chance to use that potential to succeed in a particular endeavor, is a different matter altogether. It is rarely what you know, but more so who you know that truly counts on advancing upward on the social scale.

Lasse’s best friend, Mekkar welcomed more position openings for hockey players to further pursue their craft and stick it - to the man. In the manner of breaking down the draconian stranglehold of recent earlier times and limits for athletes. Mekkar felt that the upward glass ceiling was being smashed through during this era. Restrictions were readily unlocked much quicker on player compensation and the negation of the minimum age limits. Also, successful legal destruction of the modern slavery inducing reserve clause which automatically tied an individual to a specific club indefinitely. It was previously renewed when a player’s contract ran out. Particular wording in the document didn’t matter; standard practice was just instituted as before. The times were changin’ baby! Player movement was now in full swing. On one hand it was positive, but it did also create instability for teams in some cases. Pro baseball was at the forefront in its free agency infancy stage, which affected the whole realm of the sports marketplace too! [Wikipedia; whahockey.com; billsportsmaps.com; Playing Hockey The World Over… wha.htm]

He thought it was cool to change things up a bit in relation to items that are really in essence for the fans. For example, the all-star game formats. In most of the years these special activities were anything but set in stone. Mekkar was glad that the WHA was willing to put some pizzazz into those matchups to keep the league followers always guessing as to What comes next? [whahockey.com] In Mekkar’s mind, this shows bravery and a creative out of the box mentality. On the other hand, that type of thinking can also be a pain to prepare and plan for, as well as, setup the final details.

Some change is beneficial and reasonable to Mekkar as to prevent staleness and inertia. However, constant change on a day-to-day basis with no structure or consistency-base whatsoever creates a dilemma for Mekkar. He is like most people in that he also likes to get settled into his environment, at least for a bit. To him variety is good as long as he is not always in the middle of it and the ever changing eye of the storm. Thus, gradual change stance creates a direct inner conflict for Mekkar. Maybe in spite of himself, like most individuals Mekkar is, at the same time, a creature of habit and routine whether he admits it or not.

Moreover in his native culture and reflective upbringing one had to be always aware of surprises and sudden change. Those situations could be very dangerous and life threatening. They could easily get out of hand resulting in a negative outcome, such as costing a person their life. Mekkar often repeats a certain quip, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression with a polar bear because he might look at you as a snack!” In reality, bear attacks upon people are not as common as many believe, but who would want to take that chance?

This new brand of hockey brought about a more wide open game and higher scores which, let’s face it, fans in North America seem to prefer. Possibly, that is only Mekkar’s conviction with regard to people’s sport choices. That is why he believes basketball is so popular due to the increased numbers on the scoreboard.

Since Mekkar is a defenseman, he understands and appreciates good defensive play in many sports. Plus, to him higher scoring matches show weaker protection of your own goal capability. Mekkar has participated in basketball, but it was not his cup of tea. So, he feels that he can authoritatively speak with regard to issues such as this.

Alf’s older sibling, Mekkar gravitated to and engaged in more of the physical contact or collision athletic pursuits. Undertakings such as Rugby, Australian Rules Football (Footy), American (Gridiron) Football – which by the way was introduced in 1861 in Toronto, Canada, Hockey of course, Boxing, Lacrosse – which has more battles than most conclude, and others. Not only that, Mekkar has also dabbled in additional sports like Wrestling, Soccer, Volleyball, Surfing, Sailing, etc.

It makes sense to Mekkar that if a side controls the ball, puck, and tempo of a match that squad should have more turns to notch scores or points.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (E)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – SAN DIEGO (PART D) in July, 2016.]

Usually the rest of the team rosters had a less talented, but nonetheless needed supporting cast to aid the stars. An assortment of mid-level career pro players; Plus, those recently graduated from the college ranks, and like. The majority of which would have been overlooked or never have gotten a sniff of time in the NHL. [Wikipedia; whahockey.com; billsportsmaps.com] Supplementary players that didn’t get a shot in The Show (the NHL) now had a chance to impress and become integral parts of a top club, not just stuck in the minor leagues. Teams that are made up of all the same type of players very rarely are successful and not effective long term. There are various roles to be filled on a squad to provide balance such as pluggers, checkers, defense-first forwards and defensemen, offensive defensemen, power-play and penalty killing specialists and more. Not to discount the very backline of a team, the goaltenders. It is well known in hockey that a hot goalie can make up for a host of mistakes by their team. [Goalie Quotes - msu.edu/user/baujason/quote.html; hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/showthread.php?t=1267123]

The big leaguers’, as well as, individual NHL team owners attempted to react and combat the new league through many methods. Plus, there was the painful matter of the rival circuit’s somewhat successful raiding of talent from National Hockey League squads. Quick action was taken to the assignment of new expansion franchises in key metropolitan markets to shut out the upstarts. Cut off the places where the new guys hoped to succeed and prosper and hopefully they will go away. For instance, the NHL granting an immediate new entry in the New York City area, which is considered by many to be the media capital of the world. The idea was to squeeze out any potential rival from setting up a flagship club there in the most influential press market in the world.

Other owners made life difficult for the upstarts by playing nit-picking games, adding ridiculous fee charges for basic necessities and amenities, etc. Specifically in cities where the WHA teams needed to share fan bases and already established facilities for home matches until the new clubs could secure their own home digs. {Wikipedia; billsportsmaps.com; The Hockey News; whahockey.com; Sports Illustrated]

The rapidly maturing young man thought, by way of his pre-tour research, about some possible reasons for the two top North American hockey leagues’ turf war tactics, counter strategies, & subsequent actions taken. Mekkar did gain some business sense from the many trips by being involved with both his mama and papa in various settings. It is well to note that any business, especially large ones always want to have and keep a dominant share of the marketplace for their particular industry. In this case for a sports franchise to monopolize the fan base in their sphere of influence. It is considered to be paramount for any company or team to be both profitable and have long-term stability.

Even a young Mekkar, who was now a teenager, understood that the old guard, the already entrenched circuit had to execute their plan to force the upstart league out of the larger media markets altogether. That tactic alone could pretty much minimize the threat to the status quo and keep their dominance in the professional hockey industry on the continent. These actions had the effect of pushing the newcomer (WHA) clubs away to the fringes. At the same time, punishing the other league, as well as, new team owners in a variety of ways for even having the audacity to invade the NHL’s so called turf. The wish was that the newer coalition might disappear sooner than later as a result of these many actions taken against them. It is well to note, the National Hockey League never expected any threat to their domain. They believed the WHA would not get start to get off of the ground nor any playing games, in the first place.

This was excluding the on-going, continuous legal battles conducted through the corrupt court system. Contradictory as it is in administering real justice to aggrieved parties to right wrongs. Not to forget the double standard decision making process normally based on a concept of who is supplying the legal industry members with the most favors and outright financial bribes. The court oligarchy created backroom deals and behind the scenes buddy-ship which protects each other and the status quo. Ruled by the premise of you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. Mekkar sees this pattern as a double dealing downward slope to becoming much worse in the future with very little possibility of ever being fixed.

However, the dominant league miscalculated the resolve of a few individuals involved against them, as well as, the future effects that would ensue. The main rival was dismissed with all of its faults including being new and fairly unstable, but the impact was far reaching upon the hockey landscape.

Mekkar learned from his business savvy parents early on, to have any chance of success at all, the newer and smaller business has to do it differently. Especially in an established business environment or in this situation, leagues must look for ways to make positive modifications or tweaks while still being innovative and fresh. Yet, not totally destroy the integrity of the sport itself. Mekkar says, “Throw the standard means of carrying out the old status quo and the rulebook right out the door.” That is, like in battle planning, attack areas where you think the big guys are weakest. Also, like in warfare, strike at positions the stronger group either ignores by choice, arrogance, or complacency. This is a phenomenon used in the business world since the beginning of time itself.

In a historic manner the World Hockey Association did that and went far beyond expectations. The era resulted in some changes for the good of many affiliated with the game. Well, maybe except for the old, big league club owners like the Toronto Maple Leafs Harold Ballard who lost a bit of control over player personnel. Soon the fervor increased and everyone was looking for talents in greater numbers all over the globe. This included the virtually untapped United States hockey pool. The prior trend was forever reduced of purposely restricting the searches in Canada alone for able athletes. It was now time to widen the scope to recruit talent.

The experts were now realizing that players from all over could adapt, with time, to the North American brand of ice hockey. Possibly, at least blend that style with each individual skill set. For the longest extent the neglect of broadening the horizons for new proficient players was controlled by many doubters. There were the restrictive beliefs that talent from locations outside of The Great White North (Canada) & a slightly south of the border were incapable of successfully adapting in North American pro leagues. This mistaken idea was proven to be false and even more so as the years have passed. [Wikipedia; billsportsmaps.com; whahockey.com; hockeyfights.com] 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (D)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – SAN DIEGO (PART C) in July, 2016.]

This squad, the Selects that Mekkar was a part of and representing his nation for on this tour was not considered the real, true, or top level national team. Yes, they wore a similar version of the national team jerseys with the same color scheme. There were slight visual differences to the trained eye from the top level national squad, which was also on their own scheduled jaunt through different nations. The Selects were considered as a young second tier or even less a C-level squad similar to a high junior in age or lower rung minor league pro team. Mekkar was of the opinion that they had been hastily thrown together without a whole lot of time beforehand to jell their individual talents together as a unit. The original idea was to expose and prepare these young athletes to other surroundings for future matches, so there would be less chance of being overwhelmed when appearing overseas for games.

Any all-star team that is made up of a collection of stars has issues. It is even more true in ice hockey where timing and positioning is crucial due to the extreme speed of the sport. The executives who assembled the squad planned on the players becoming a cohesive team as a result of all the players being together on such an extended long, long road trip. This same journey that would take them through the North American continent and later beyond to other regions around the globe.

Trouble was, the erratic schedule along with the individuals not meshing together as well as management hoped showed in the Selects play on the ice. It was especially true in the early portion of the trip. In addition to the fact, the competition they were facing was getting stronger as the matches progressed. Mekkar felt that the team executives should have known better of what to expect since most of them were former players themselves. He chalked it up as either one or two reasons for this oversight. The first was the lack of time to assemble a decent squad and let them learn how to play together to take advantage of their individual strengths. Nobody wanted the Selects to embarrass the powers in charge that put together this journey.

Most of the team management time was spent on the logistics of the tour itself due to ever changing scheduled matches in the various locales. Mekkar thought those in charge of the team did a bad job with poor planning. The other reason that was plagued this trip was that possibly the executives had forgotten, similar to many bosses in the workplace and all politicians, about the resources needed to complete the work at hand. In this case supplying the players who perform their duties on the ice with all they need to succeed, just like other entertainers such as movie and television actors and actresses. This is how the inquisitive mind of Mekkar operates!

The Selects were a fairly young team with the oldest player being almost twenty-one years old. Everyone else on the squad was younger. That maturity was the reason the oldest member of the club was also chosen as the captain of this Selects team. Alf was the most youthful of all the players, even though his outward appearance and size reflected an opposite image. The Selects wished that their squad could have been designated as the junior national team. Unfortunately, that was impossible because the rules state that all individual players on the team, except a few, must be eighteen years old or younger depending on the time of the actual tournament being participated in.

Despite their relative youthful ages individual members on the team had varying levels of experience against international competition. Thus, not all of them were completely green in lacking true big stage game experience as a group. It was a good thing for the Selects that the statistics and results of these exhibition matches would not count in the standings of the home teams. Unlike a few other touring international game tilts during the decade. Nor would these games versus the Selects effect any of the host clubs’ playoff aspirations. The hosts clubs only focused on things which would affect the bottom line in regard to gate receipts and potential profits. [Playing Hockey The World Over…wha.htm; whahockey.com]

If these matches had counted in the standings, increased nastiness probably would have the order of the day in Mekkar’s mind. The Far North Native was also glad there was no radio or television broadcasts of any of these matches back home just in case of possible blowouts in favor of the home sides as previously predicted against the Selects.

So, it seemed to Mekkar that some of the professional North American squad’s older veteran players lacked full fledged efforts in a few of these exhibition matches. They appeared to be going through the motions as much as possible in a collision sport such as ice hockey. The lights may have been on but it was questionable if somebody was home in the head. At the same time the home clubs’ younger members and non-superstars were bearing the brunt of responsibility for their team’s on-ice performance. Mekkar surmised it was either to keep those individuals on the big league team and out of the minor circuits. If it took using their fists to gain themselves a roster spot, so be it. Also, to preserve the pride by showing that the North American style of hockey was superior to the international norm. [Playing Hockey The World Over…wha.htm; whahockey.com]

Mekkar thought this helped his touring squad, even if he didn’t mention it outwardly. It was a rare thing for The Arctic Warrior since he keeps very little bottled-up inside of him. He is the complete opposite of his brother Alf. Mekkar felt that might be part of the reason for the Selects having more success against their rivals on this tour than expected. Even more than Mekkar had anticipated after noticing the North American pros, at times, had much stronger performances against top tier travelling competition on other jaunts. “Maybe, some of the squads over here have begun to wake up and are gaining understanding from the error of their ways,” reasoned Mekkar, “But, not all of them.”

By this time the WHA was the most successful challenger and rival of the big boys on the block, the National Hockey League. The overall quality of play in the World Hockey Association circuit might have been slightly less than the totality of the whole NHL. Some of the teams in the upstart league consisted of a few established stars who jumped to the newer, more fragile and unstable circuit. For, in some cases, much higher promised salaries than they earned before. In other instances, it was about more opportunity to exhibit one’s skills or gain more playing time. Another reason was that some players were just more suited to the run and gun, up-tempo different WHA style of hockey and those stats reflect this. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (C)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – SAN DIEGO (PART B) in July, 2016.]

Even though this aspect of Mekkar’s team gave them more confidence, the Selects’ as a club needed a lot of improvement of their own regarding their penalty killing. The short handed specialty outfits probably would get better if players like Mekkar would use his own good sense. For example, decrease his own retaliatory infractions. He is acutely aware that referees almost never notice the initial rule violation, but almost always catch the response. Mekkar needed to get his pest shots in first to have a better chance of not getting caught and thus would pay less visits to his home away from home, the penalty box.

A true assessment of the Selects performance on this tour was that they were still getting dominated at full strength five-on-five play. The coaches were not happy about the squad getting their rear ends handed to them during these points in the earlier scheduled games. If the Selects found a way to get better in this area there was the assumption by the staff that most, if not all, of the goonery might cease. Most athletes want to avoid a wounding of their pride when performing in front of their own fan base.

To Mekkar, it still was a good thing to take advantage of any opportunity the Selects’ could get. Some of the earlier opposition thought that they could intimidate Mekkar and the whole Selects squad through the use of rough and tumble tactics, while employing a more physical style. Just like some of these same clubs had employed with other previously visiting international squads. Since it worked before for the most part, continue to use those nasty tactics. However, the young barnstorming team was catching on. [Playing Hockey The World Over…wha.htm; whahockey.com; hockeyfights.com; Wikipedia; billsportsmaps.com; The Hockey News]

Unfortunately for The Native from The Far North, most of his teammates on the Selects squad were learning these lessons much too slowly. They were effectively bullied by some of the more pugilistic home sides on this far flung schedule, but not Mekkar or Lasse.

Though after suffering a serious injury prior to this matchup, the teenager promised to be ready for anything. That is despite being hampered in his effectiveness to carry out all of his on ice responsibilities, in full measure. Of course, Mekkar’s cockiness wanted to write checks his body couldn’t deliver at this time. Mekkar just wanted to enjoy and participate in as much as he could during this perceived once in a lifetime journey or so he thought at the time.

The arctic boy was of the view that some of these teams that would brawl first to open up space for offensive opportunities and scoring goals later. For example, like the Bulls and Fighting Saints had not learned any lessons from their earlier employed stupid strategy. These errored ways lead to the use of similar undisciplined, bully-style hockey now - during matches here at their home rinks. It was also the case when back when they were visiting Mekkar’s own area of the world on quite a few instances throughout the preceding years. [whahockey.com; Playing Hockey The World Over…wha.htm; The Hockey News; billsportsmaps.com; hockeyfights.com]
 
Mekkar’s response was quite predictable for anyone who really knew him because he was so bad at hiding his true feelings. His thought process was always to get mad and get even or try his hardest to proceed on this course of action. Not only would Mekkar fight with his enemy opponents, he would also return the cheap shots and uncalled for stickwork of his own, if necessary. At the same time he and his team would attempt to punish them for their stupidity and arrogance on the scoreboard by converting more often on the power play as a result. “Kick their butts in both ways”, as Mekkar put it.

The adolescent saw an example of this, of which he was present at, as a younger spectator with Alf, Lasse, and his papa at a match back in his home area. During that tilt the squad from North America was being completely outplayed early in the game and could not match the skill level to keep up with the local club, as Mekkar described this scenario. So, the visitors got crazy and became more of a thug squad on ice and started to really goon it up. It was a nasty brawl-fest. Thus, they dug themselves a deeper hole. That visiting team was eventually spanked and humiliated by looking at the score. [Playing Hockey The World Over…wha.htm; whahockey.com; The Hockey News]

On this particular trip, Mekkar figured if these teams wanted to conduct themselves in the same manner of thuggery on the ice as before, punishment would ensue. He knew that he would have to be one of the players on his team to help beat the lessons from those earlier episodes into the thick skulls of his opponents. Mekkar hoped there would be increased scoring for his side due to more power play chances acquired by his team from the enemy tactics. “Go ahead and continue this undisciplined moronic strategy and we will embarrass you!”, he snapped. Mekkar would repeat a saying that he learned from a previous coach on a team he played for not long ago back home. He quipped, “If you want to play like a clown, we send you back to the circus with your tail between your legs, so you can hide from your shame.”

Plus, Mekkar wanted to retaliate too, if needed. He was not one to just stand there take abuse like a fool and a victim without doing anything in response. He also desired to kick some butt because that was in his personal nature. It did not matter to him that he wasn’t the biggest person in statue. The Arctic Warrior was the shortest person in his immediate family, by far. Still he had to heart, training, and skill to brawl. Mekkar would take no grief from anyone and unlike some famous fighters, take on all comers who challenged him. No person on this planet scared him at all. Mekkar termed it as just a matter of relative perspective considering where he grew up. He has observed aggressive action of wild and sometimes large animals such as various types of bears, moose, etc. on a regular basis in the arctic. Plus, Mekkar has encountered on occasion some of the beasts himself. It is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. After those experiences, even the largest human beings look kind of small in his eyes. The problem is he is not afraid to tell them that fact to potential combatants faces either.

Monday, July 18, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (B)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – SAN DIEGO (PART A) in July, 2016.]

Mekkar’s best friend Lasse would refer to The Arctic Warrior’s personality change on the ice as one (Mekkar) who goes to his deep, dark place inside of himself. Lasse describes it as an area that sometimes Mekkar himself does not want to visit. The hulking Lasse should know too. Since many have said outwardly, and Lasse agreed with affirmation, that he has almost the same exact nasty on ice disposition as Mekkar. The difference is Mekkar’s best friend is physically much bigger, stronger, meaner, and nastier of the two. Lasse is always on the lookout to carry out his brand of bad intentions than Mekkar ever could, at his worst. Added to the fact, that Lasse had less control and it was hard for him to turn off the nastiness switch in other parts of his life. This is possibly the main reason they got along so well with each other because they could relate to each others’ inner demons, just waiting to come out.

Lasse and Mekkar both had a similar character and they had an almost exact upbringing by growing up together in the same village. Mekkar’s best friend recognized that he will always need some type of physical or creative outlet to combat that internal tug-of-war and subsequent outward mean streak manifestation. This will be especially true when his competitive athletic days are completed. Otherwise, there will be episodes of lashing out or blowing off steam. Lasse joked many times about the fact that Mekkar will never get married due to the fact that he is extremely uncompromising, unlike politicians. He is very consistent in his stances and unwavering in those areas of his nature.

Like or not, these behaviors are an ongoing struggle for many athletes in violent contact and collision sports. These matters become worse for athletes as they approach the end of their chosen profession with diminishing skills or after career ending injuries or forced retirement. The issue is that the particular individual loses their outlet or expression that was the focus of their inner drive. After the active sports career is over there is no way to get out that built-up inward conflict out of themself. In other words, the release mechanism is now absent and something else must fill the void. The associated problems with lack of aggressive expression require a permanent resolution or it never gets solved without an extreme amount of help from others.

Most ex or former athletes are taught to push it down deep inside or to ignore these issues. They are told it will take care of itself, but in reality that usually is not the case only the exception. That is only one factor that was mentioned above as related to the psyche of an individual. There are other considerations as well such as the loss of higher income in most respects. Those accomplishments and blessings which normally are perceived as being at the top rungs of society at large disappear. Don’t forget the loss of adulation from fans and no more attention from the crowds. Even temporary glory, fame, and other post endeavor lost benefits like daily life structure for the most part of a professional athletic career is suddenly gone. The great upheaval and understanding is lost on those people who have never experienced these factors. Thus, depression can set in big time. If there is a lack of post career preparation the questions come like a flood, what do I do now?

The cold weather young man would describe his central condition by using an external example such as like the horn type sound that is made during a heavy London fog. If no sound is made or the noise is ignored most likely bad things can occur. A ship or boat loses its sense of direction and runs into another object or aground. Mekkar would at other times express the continuous resident turmoil as boiling to the surface. Another indication was small tremors released to hold off and avoid a large earthquake.

He always felt he needed that abrasive edge in his game because of his smaller stature for his position. Some would say Mekkar went over the edge on many occasions. Mekkar went out of his way to get respect. He also knew that by carrying himself in this manner, he was playing with fire and could get burned. Even go over the edge or just snap on a mental level and become a basket case. Yet, those risks Mekkar was willing to take in the short term without assessing long term ramifications.

At times Mekkar would do this to kick-start and motivate himself. The idea was to knock any listlessness out of him through the dishing out of taking a hit to make a beneficial play. If there was any lethargy left in him, he was determined to removal it all any way he could. Many times after games Mekkar felt more relief than joy in this frame of mind, even if his squad was victorious. It was physically exhausting and mentally draining to play the style he did. Then, normally he would revert back to his regular frame of mind. The dilemma was that, not even Mekkar could predict the tone and expression of his own character. The Far North Native has some major questions regarding the realm of his daily existence outside of participating in active sports. Would he be a personal, but guarded individual when he was away from all sports or games? Or would he be a total jerk and have an explosive personality toward everyone around him? This is how Mekkar imagined himself and his outward demeanor. Of course, others around him saw Mekkar in different light, which included those closest to him on this trip such as Alf and Lasse.

In Mekkar’s mind, he was glad that some of the more physical teams and good squads at the beginning of the tour. He was hoping this would result in his team playing some better hockey when the fear factor was removed. The benefit of that schedule for him is that it got Mekkar’s competitive juices flowing in those early matches. The downside was that it could wear him down rapidly, if he wasn’t careful despite anything to the contrary that his mind told him.

There was the belief of Mekkar that the Selects as a team had been fairly fortunate to achieve a couple of victories so far on this ice hockey expedition. Well, considering the high level of opponents the Selects had encountered. Any early success by Mekkar’s squad was mainly due to an increased effectiveness on the man advantage power play unit. It seemed to start to click and produce more timely goals. A good power play is an effective weapon to punish opposing teams for undisciplined play and taking stupid penalties. The travelling team’s power play became more dangerous and was operating at a higher clip with each successive outing. Ever since the recent surge of the Selects man advantage unit, the competition began to think twice before taking unnecessary liberties with Selects players. Careless play and the parade to the sin bin was greatly reduced. Too bad the lesson was lost on Mekkar because he mainly lived in the short term.

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAN DIEGO (A)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – WINNIPEG (PART C) in July, 2016.]

Mekkar had been to San Diego a couple of times before, once with his papa, but he was too fairly young to remember much of those trips. Travelling to different places wasn’t such a big deal to him either since he has been many places. People are normally surprised The Arctic Native has journeyed all around the world at such a young age.

This jaunt was different because this time it was to play hockey. He felt there was a lack of quality ice rinks in the area. Even back home someone seems to know something about always sunny California, especially the southern part of the state. It was an image created by marketing campaigns to draw foreign tourists. Part of that was the surfer music of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Ventures, and more that perpetrated those myths about Southern California throughout the whole world.

The youngster listened to some of that music and had even heard statements such as it is the land of the beautiful people. He didn’t believe it because he was there right now and was not the recipient of his mama’s model looks. Mekkar thought that the city seemed like a nice to be, perhaps a little on the warm side for his taste. After all the area is a desert, just not an arctic one.

Adolescent Mekkar loved playing on the smaller ice surfaces in North America as compared to the standard twenty foot wider ones back home. Plus, some here in The States and Canada were even smaller than norm regulation size which even more suited Mekkar’s hitting style game. The more dinky, the better in his mind because he regarded the boards as his friends. He also used them to angle opposing forwards in his defensive zone to crush those who venture there with devastating hits. Mekkar employed his powerful legs, lower body core, and very low center of gravity to play the body on enemy players. That meant all types of hits were dished out in many forms, even open-ice hip checks too!

He figured if there is less ice for speedy opponents, then it is easier to track them down. Hopefully, he is not chasing them. In that scenario, it would mean that Mekkar is already behind the play. The Arctic Warrior loved to hand out to other players a hard body check that hopefully would create a turnover. The lack of rink size equals more restricted maneuverability of the opposition’s part. Also, a turnover can start the transition to offense for Mekkar’s squad.

The concept of Mekkar was that, if he could apply more energy to the actual hit itself, it would zap some energy from his enemy. Additionally, Mekkar felt confident that he could use less physical exertion to get to the spot and make it happen in the first place. The benefits would show later on in the game when fatigue on both sides set in. Towards the end of a match when more frequent positional mistakes happen, especially in overtime. Not to forget, Mekkar had other distractions as result of his hand injury.

Mekkar was not a respecter of persons when he reached the ice. He just didn’t have any fear or concern about any individual opponents’ size or the name on the back of their jersey. It didn’t matter to him if that player was popular or not. He did not care in the least bit. Everyone was fair game to be hit by him. In other words, Mekkar considered himself to be an equal opportunity punisher or body checker. That was part of his job on the ice and he did it as best as he could.

The Arctic Native was an original that is for sure. Mekkar was also a pain in the rear end. Even his own mother would describe him that way and took the opportunity to tell him on a not so infrequent basis. Mekkar had another role to play and that was to be a pest on the ice and possibly, or at least willing to, brawl too if needed. He used all of these factors together to get into other competitor’s heads and mess with them. The goal with these tactics was to throw the opposition, especially the stars, off of their top game. That might make the difference between victory or defeat. Later on, Esa “Super Pest” Tikkanen used this same strategy to accomplish the same result, but Tikkanen had much more offensive upside than Mekkar. [hockeyfights.com; The Hockey News]

It is a risk using these types of tactics because the potential to receive a great amount of bodily harm is high. These schemes worked more often than not for Mekkar. The Native from the Far North’s reasoning was if it works, even most of the time, keep doing it. Thus, he continued to follow that same course of activity. Mekkar attempts to use the principle of: If it isn't broken, don't (try to) fix it. [T. Bert Lance, 1977; Ann Landers; & possibly before]

Alf’s described his older brother as being an absolute ruthless, mean individual on the ice. The Far North Native could be one at times outside of hockey as well, depending on his mood. The best way to describe Mekkar’s playing style was that it was quite similar to another undersized individual of more recent times. That person was still larger in statue than Mekkar. Mekkar is reminded of himself when he has observed the play of Darius “Kaspar The Unfriendly Ghost” Kasparaitis. Plus, Darius had more offensive prowess than Mekkar. The ice cold young man Mekkar was meaner than Kasparaitis and chose to focus more on his defensive responsibilities. Mekkar did this at some expense and sacrifice in the offensive end. Both players were however unflinching in their own zone on defense and suffered for it. Even though Darius’ last name sounded like some kind of ailment or disease, the only cure was to try to remove him from the game somehow. The same as Mekkar. [hockeyfights.com; The Hockey News]

Some of Mekkar’s teammates described his metamorphosis as he transformed into like a werewolf or similar type creature right when the match began. Mekkar’s brother Alf said that his sibling turned into a super-jerk at game time. Alf one time explained it as, “Being sometimes more than just a jerk in any competitive atmosphere to everyone around him. This included coaches, teammates, and fans also. He (Mekkar) makes no apologies or excuses and carries out this attitude without any apprehension or hesitation whatsoever. It is like there is no doubt in his deranged mind that what he is doing is correct and proper.” Alf went on to say, “Mekkar is not one to consider one bit about the effects or consequences of his outward actions regarding others around him. He doesn’t seem to care either. Like a type of narcissistic selfishness on my older brother’s part. I don’t think Mekkar totally realizes the complete change going on. Similar to an old time berserker warrior in a trance state.” Alf continued, “Mekkar would then revert to his usual inconsistent moody or at times outgoing self afterwards when the match was over. Trouble is, you never knew which one it was going to be.” 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – WINNIPEG (C)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – WINNIPEG (PART B) in July, 2016.]

The last period of this game still gave Mekkar incentive that with a few breaks here and there the Selects could still be competitive in this match. Well, if Mekkar or someone else on his team could draw some man advantage opportunities by way of penalties on the Jets. However, Winnipeg was loaded with talent such as Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson – the Hot Line (Mekkar instead called it the International Line), Willy Lindstrom, Veli-Pekka Ketola, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, Heikki Riihiranta, and more. During this third period the Jets got hot & lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine. There was a hope in his brain of an outside possibility to win this matchup. It was not to be however. A Break was the correct term, but not in a manner that Mekkar expected.

Some minutes later in the final stanza and toward the latter part of the game, Mekkar was on another man-down situation because of a stupid penalty on the part of a teammate. He was just glad it finally wasn’t him this time since he was so well adapted to the confines of the sin bin. Mekkar became fatigued and this started to affect his judgment during play. Unfortunately, it was not quite time for him to be replaced either.

As he was drawing near to the shooter at an angle, Mekkar slightly lost his balance during a sharp turn. This while chasing the movement of the puck on the Winnipeg player’s stick. The Jets’ player was winding up to take a slap shot. Mekkar began falling at an odd angle and going down to the ice quicker than he normally did to half-heartedly attempt to block a shot from that point (Problem was, shot blocking was much less common in those days). He thought that he might have hit a rut in the ice or something similar. Yet, he discounted that thought because the ice here is known as pretty good for the most part and there was still too much time to go for that.

Anyway, he was more concerned about hindering the potential shot on goal. As Mekkar was going down he put his one hand up to protect his face, jaw, and neck region. Problem was that it was turned palm side open towards the shooter. On this occasion, Mekkar forgot to turn his hand the opposite way so that the back of his hand with all the padding was facing forward instead. He was tired and not thinking straight out there and probably should have been already off the ice.

The hard shot was taken and the rubber disc hit the unpadded palm at full bore. Instantly, the cracking and crunching sound of bone being broken was heard by anyone nearby the bench. Some of his teammates that close by at the bench heard it too and cringed. There was also damage to the ligaments and tendons, as well as the wrist area. Mekkar knew it was bad right then and just tried to tough it out and finish his shift, which still had about twenty more seconds to go. At this point, those twenty seconds seemed like an eternity to The Arctic Warrior.

Soon after the puck was successfully whisked out of the Selects own zone. The Native from the North finished his shift and went directly to the dressing room area. He heard the news about his injury and found out after the x-rays about a number of broken bones in his hand and wrist from that episode.

Mekkar received treatment and showed his toughness by having his hand heavily taped to get back out there to help his team. Of course, the medications and alcohol helped a bit. He ended up only missing a total of two shifts on this tour. Both were during this time as he was being tended to in the locker room for this particular injury. Mekkar’s hand was badly impaired. He was unable to even hold a pen to sign his name. The teenager would now have to wear a removable soft cast or brace when not playing. The brace was not allowed to be used during matches, so the continued practice of heavy taping would be required if he wanted to soldier on.

Fortunately, he could eat and carry out some functions with his healthy left hand. The rub was that his minutes per game went significantly southward as determined by the coaching staff. Mekkar was a right side defenseman with a right hand shot. Now the injury affected his grip on the stick in his fingers and in turn greatly reduced the effectiveness to shoot the puck with his stick in the desired direction. Mekkar’s wrist shot was in effect fairly negated at that point. The key was not letting the opposition know to avoid exploiting that shortcoming. After the match, he was really starting to feel the effects of the all the things he was given.

Alf’s older brother began to be a wise guy and tried to conceal the seriousness of his injury to his teammates. Mekkar came back with the comment to Alf and Lasse, “Do you know who broke my hand with his famous slapshot? At least, my hand was shattered by a wicked shot by the great Golden Jet, Bobby Hull!” Alf spoke up again to his older sibling, “Everyone, who is familiar with the game, knows who he is! You are at fault because you were star gazing instead of being in the correct position.” Lasse and Alf and a few others on the squad then just shook their heads in mock disbelief at the jest. They thought it was the mix of medication and alcohol doing the talking.

This incident changed the tour for Mekkar and made it less enjoyable. The main reason was it limited his peak performance for awhile until the affliction fully healed. Even to this day one can still hear the cracking and popping sounds from numerous movements by Mekkar’s right hand and wrist. He describes it as if there is a spring or something resembling that in there.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – WINNIPEG (B)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – WINNIPEG (PART A) in July, 2016.]

Anyway, Mekkar has determined that eliminating fighting altogether from the game of hockey at the professional level endangers the player. Specifically the stars who people buy tickets to see. By taking away the fist-cuffs completely would result in more injuries to them. Plus, add a watered-down product which could affect the number of fans thus the amount Continued of gate receipts. Since hockey is so much more dependant on fans attending games than the other big sports. The financial health of teams and leagues would be severely hindered.

The instigator rule already is detrimental and curtails the ability to combat cheap shots against the star players that puts fans’ butts in the stands. Mekkar reasons that designated policemen also free up space on the ice and create for more unobstructed movement and offensive flow during the game. However, those fighters’s must have other skills to contribute to the rest of the club.

The Northern Native further comments, “Fighting in our sport is a preferable alternative to other adverse effects from vicious surgical-like stickwork and nasty elbows.” [cbc.ca; Wikipedia.com; Livestrong.com; bleacherreport.com; thepolitic.com/archives/2006/11/09/why-fighting-is-good-for-hockey] He knows this from experience and the number of scars from the evil stick tactics and cheap shots on his body. Even in some non-descript places. Mekkar’s advice is check with some individuals who participate in pro hockey leagues in other locations of the planet that have banned fighting. Those people will tell you stories and give a very different picture regarding that dispute.

He doesn’t want the want the sport to adjust its core self to win over fringe fans in locations that reject the game of hockey. Mekkar nails it in a off the cuff manner, “If they don’t like it, forget them!” He also quips, “The largest gridiron football players don’t scare me, and I have never met one that I couldn’t handle. That goes for most sports athletes including fighters. Remember, I rapped a (non-polar) bear in the nose and told it to leave or it would lose its life!” Mekkar has victoriously tangled with a few of those from other endeavors before. He is afraid of no human, just the trepidation of not succeeding.

As he was watching a hockey game on one of the local channels in the hotel his team was staying at, Mekkar became bothered. One of the hockey commentators, he doesn’t remember which, made a statement that set Mekkar off shouting, “That is such a crock!” at the television. The person on the tube was mentioning something about taking shots on net from sharp angles on the ice. The announcer commented about this factor normally results in a higher percentage of initial goalie saves and rebounds back out in the slot area. That is, in front of the net from the face circle on in to the net. Mekkar notes his disagreement  because netminders are getting better at redirecting the puck over toward the corners and boards away from the net to remove second chance opportunities. He says that opinion is old and changing much quicker than anticipated. At least that was the case with goalies Mekkar has played alongside and against.

Mekkar has the mindset of why should an attacking offensive player intentionally limit themselves and their options for potential goals. Especially by swinging out wide and taking the shots from there only. There are more options and holes to score a goal when shooting on net when an offensive player is directly in the center of the ice in the slot and goal crease areas. The netminder is unable to cover all of the net no matter how large they are and they have to be nimble as well. Well, there is more logic to this train of thought Mekkar asserted. When a goaltender stands in the net in the ready position, there are seven open areas that the goalie must cover: Glove side – high and low, Stick side – high and low, between the pads or legs, and added later between the goalie’s glove or blocker and rib cage. [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five-hole; hockeygoalies.org/resources/glossary.html; schoolyardpuck.com/2010/10/why-it-called-five-hole-in-hockey.html] Why shoot where it is easiest to stop?

Then there is matter of goaltenders playing and cutting off the angels to dramatically increase their ability to stop pucks. [hockeygoalies.org/advice/rule5.html; ehow.com/how_2294079_improve-angles-playing-goalie-hockey.html] This was even more helpful to Mekkar due to his frequent riverboat gambling and aggressive style in relation to checking attacking opposition forwards. Don’t forget about the amount of communication on the ice needed between teammates. Most definitely between goalies and defensemen like Mekkar. These are nuances that are only acquired through familiarity and pre-arrangement between team members. [hockeygoalies.org/advice/rule4.html]

The burgeoning young man has seen many instances of hockey matches at many levels where one team has vastly outshot their opposition. Yet, that team lost the game anyway because that squad had the majority of their shots on net from the sides instead of directly out front. To Mekkar, it is the matter of prime scoring chances right out front of the net and in the middle of the ice that means more than the shots on goal statistic.

Yet, the Youngster from the Arctic felt that the goaltending on the Selects squad had to be absolutely superb - very similar to the early part of this tour, to have any chance of winning this game. It could not be lackluster as in the last couple of matches. Mekkar has seen the Jets play some exhibitions against various teams outside of North America. He had even seen others on film as well. So, he guessed that he was familiar with their style of play. The fact of the matter was that Mekkar was wrong and way off base.

Winnipeg had added a few members on their roster recently and were about to show why the Jets were considered one of the most talented hockey clubs on the planet. The skill level was beyond Mekkar’s expectations and he would get a close up view this night at the Winnipeg Arena. [billsportsmaps.com; Wikipedia; whahockey.com; Playing Hockey The World Over … - wha.htm] A butt kicking was about to begin at Mekkar’s expense. Fortunately, the whipping was only going to be on the scoreboard and not smacks to the head.

This match was not a goon-fest unlike some of the others. Part of it was the difficulty for the Selects to keep up and catch those in the Jets’ uniforms on this night. Thus, there was an absence of challenge them to a few bouts of let’s go or do the tango – aka fighting. Otherwise, the lopsided score probably would have been worse than the nine to one embarrassing defeat Mekkar’s squad suffered.

During the second period of this ongoing debacle, the Selects received a few too many men on the ice bench minor penalties. Normally in most rinks both team benches are roughly the same size and on the same side of the ice surface. There usually are the sin bins and possibly a scorer’s box or something similar in between them. Each team switches sides of the ice for each period, thus creating a rotational change for a team but keeping the same bench. In this scenario, the second frame results in the team’s bench being further away from a particular club’s defensive zone. This makes on the fly line changes, without the benefits of a stoppage in play, more problematic. Due to the fact that your team’s bench is now further away.

Overtime play is harder because of the matter of player fatigue. The smooth and fluid Jets took advantage of those infractions and capitalized on those man advantage power play situations. One thing Mekkar did notice while skating near the home Winnipeg bench to arrive at his own was difference between the two. It dawned on Mekkar that the hometown club had a quicker change of players between shifts. Maybe, he thought, it was because their area was a lot larger and was more spacious than the one available to the visitor’s.    

Mekkar thought to himself then no wonder the Selects were receiving all these were due to a lack of space. It felt kind of cramped on his side and he wanted to find out who was going to makeup for the disparity or receive punishment from him. He later found out, from an arena worker who admitted the discrepancy, that the visitor’s bench is quite a bit shorter than the homeside area. Mekkar quipped distastefully, “Another home ice advantage in their favor as if they needed it.” It made a difference when a player coming off of the ice approaches the bench within five foot range. A player outside of that limit cannot replace the one coming off of the ice and join the play. Otherwise it is a penalty for too many men on the ice for your team. Once a player removes themselves from the activity from the frozen surface there is a shifting and readjusting process on the pine.

Usually offensive trios and defense pairs on a squad sit together on the bench and converse with each other about the game. Sometimes, it is instruction by a veteran to a younger member of the club. There are questions regarding assessment of the play, recognition, anticipation during action, a quick breather, and much more. This all happens until you are re-inserted back into the fray. The intense adolescent wasn’t about to let easier line changes, homeside differences and preferences, and awe of his opponent effect his performance on the frozen slab of water.