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.