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.