Saturday, February 13, 2010

For the Love of the Game

The Olympic freeze for the NHL is here, and we'll have sometime to relax and enjoy seeing our favorite NHL players in Vancouver.

Sometimes though, I wonder what the Olympics would be like if they reinstated only amateurs into the Games as they did in the early '80s. What would the odds of winning look like for teams like the USA and Canada? Would the involvement of amateurs motivate more players all over the country to reverse the declining numbers of North American players?

It pops in my head that with the decline of North American players comes with the question: What's the point? There are only so many opportunities to play professional hockey, and the goal would be to get the maximum amounts of exposure and pay from doing so. We tend to forget sometimes that kids play hockey just to play hockey.

As mentioned before, the movement toward professional players filling rosters in the Olympics took away the chance for young players to have another aspiration to play hockey - for the glory. No monetary awards are provided for winning the gold medal in the Winter Olympics hockey tournament. You play to win for national pride, and because you love to play hockey.

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I came across an email sent the other day by Michael Bergen, a science educator from Massachusetts. He saw I was quite a hockey fan from this site, and he just thought he'd pass along a 3 minute 36 second time lapse video of his son, Ross, building an ice rink outside in his backyard.

To some, the video is just a quick tutorial of the process of making a backyard ice rink. So they watch and keep it moving.

However, Ross' father pointed out that the video actually represents more than just the building of a backyard ice rink using wood, tarp, and water. If you notice from watching the video, there's no audience, no whistles, and certainly no sponsors or earned money involved.

Instead, this video expresses how much Ross really just wanted to shoot the puck around. One could bring up that, "He could have just gone to a local ice rink." After all, the guy is in Boston. They should be plentiful...

...But that's missing the point. This rink didn't take 3 minutes and 46 seconds to build. It took a few days of almost non-stop work putting the wood pieces together to create the right shape to balance out the rink. To put the water on the tarp over the wood takes a bit to freeze over. It's not an easy task, and for someone to complete such a task with little help takes a lot of dedication to his or her work.

The end of the video epitomizes the final outcome of Ross' project. It shows that this is all he wanted to do - shoot around. To make the perfect ice rink just so that he could go outside and shoot around or play with some friends whenever shows that there is a love for hockey that you cannot live without - literally. As a die-hard hockey fanatic myself, I can entirely relate to this.

Michael asked me, "Isn't it time that we look at sports like we used to as kids?"

And it is. You remember going out to the closest place with hoops to ball for hours when nobody was watching. You remember going out to the tennis courts and skating out on roller blades to play a little shoot-around even though it was against the rules. You just played just to play.

So here's a HUGE shoutout to folks like Ross out there who will always love the game, and build their own rinks in their backyards to show for it. Dedicated people for sure. And trust me, it can be done in the DMV.

If sports could be brought back to this simple form, amateurs playing for the USA would be a possibility once again, and as a result, it could stir more North American kids playing hockey.


Special thanks to Michael Bergen for allowing me to do this story on his son, Ross, and his video. Thanks guys.

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