Hockey makes Bubba feel old

I am sitting here recovering from a cold and watching the Canadiens / Senators hockey game. All of a sudden, I am feeling really, really old.

Some sports do not change much. Baseball, for instance, has had relatively few baseball teams move, and the rules have been fairly constant. The biggest change I can remember is the designated hitter in the American League, and that was adopted in 1973.

Hockey, on the other hand, has changed a lot. As the almost-forgotten sibling in the family of major league sports, the NHL has had to make many changes in their attempt to make the game more palatable for Americans with bad eyesight and an intolerance to spend energy learning a game they did not grow up playing.

I estimate that somewhere around 1979 or so I became a hardcore hockey fan, making a date with my 13″ black and white television to watch Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night during the season. I even watched games in French when I did not like the game being broadcast in English on channel 4. Here are some of the changes I have seen in the last 31 seasons:

  1. Teams have moved around. A lot. The Winnipeg Jets are now the Phoenix Coyotes, the Quebec Nordiques are the Colorado Avalanche, the Hartford Whalers are the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Minnesota North Stars are now the Dallas Stars.
  2. Expansion has brought ice to a lot of places that normally do not see it. Teams that were not around in 1979 include the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Ottawa Senators.
  3. Noticeable rule changes have altered the look of the game. I remember Guy LaFleur, among others, with their hair flying in the wind as they skated back and forth. In 1979, any new NHL player had to wear a helmet, with veterans being able to choose if they wanted a lid. While I understand the safety issues, players have become faceless to me…appearing like homogeneous robots.
  4. Another rule change is the installation of nets behind the ends of the rink, preventing pucks from flying into the crowd. I have attended a lot of games where people have been hit, because they were not paying attention to the game. The death of a girl in Columbus, OH at an NHL game was the sad reason they finally installed the  much-needed safety devices.
  5. I remember a lot of face-offs generated by players trapping the puck along the boards with their skates. No more, move the game along guys. Goalies also used to shoot the puck into the crowd to force a face-off; cannot do that anymore unless you want a delay of game penalty. They also cannot roam behind the goal line as freely as they used to; if you wander out of the trapezoid, that’s another penalty.
  6. Passes going over 2 lines, shootouts, and faster re-starts have all made the game a lot faster and fun to watch for fans.

The NHL has worked hard to attract fans and make the game more enjoyable. While I appreciate their efforts, remembering all the changes makes Bubba feel like a grumpy old curmudgeon.

Category: Hockey

One comment on “Hockey makes Bubba feel old

  1. grumble grumble grumble.

Leave a Reply