What’s With Hockey?


Here are four anecdotes about hockey. If a GPS were writing this story, it might be saying “recalculating’ or even “make a U-turn.”

Hockey does not seem to know where it is going.

On Saturday January 11, Harvard and Yale will face off in Madison Square Garden. Earlier in the day there will have been alumni games divided by age level and pregame networking receptions.

snowy hockey

The PR people for the heavily advertised event have let it be known that spectators used to attend these games dressed in black tie. (In the land of spin, “letting something be known” is getting the information out there without saying it yourself.) Though a reprise of that custom seems unlikely, there is a nostalgic feel to the event.

Continuing the nostalgia theme, the NHL is staging five outdoor hockey games this year; building on the success of the single game it has held each of the last several years.

Over 100,000 people watched Detroit and Toronto play in light snow at the University of Michigan Stadium. There was some complaining about the elements, and an odd-man rush was interrupted at the 2 ½ minute mark of overtime when the teams had to change ends because of the wind.

Not to be left behind, the Harvard and Northeastern Women’s teams were set to play at Frozen Fenway the other day. The game was cancelled because of … snow.

Those who played most of their hockey outdoors in New Hampshire looked with envy at the thinsulated gloves, balaclavas and technical gear that kept the players warm. None of these will be needed for the next outdoor game scheduled to be played in Los Angeles.

This is also a winter Olympic year when both men and women will play for their countries. The men are mostly in the NHL and they have little time to practice with their countrymen, but there is no meaningful pro hockey for women and they play as a country for several months before going to Sochi.

Several countries are competitive in men’s hockey but the US and Canada are the overwhelming favorites to meet for the gold on the women’s side. Unless they tune up against men’s teams, they have no other meaningful opponents.

Pat Borzi of the New York Times began her recent article (U.S. and Canadian Women Keep it Civil in a Tight Game) with the words “this time the gloves stayed on.”

In two of the last five games, there had been brawls, one of which resulted in ten major penalties for fighting during the last 10 seconds of a game that was long over. The theme from Rocky was played during the fight in case anyone had missed the point and tens of thousands have watched it on YouTube.

“It was interesting, just because I didn’t realize how big a deal it was,” [Hilary] Knight said, referring to the more recent brawl. “We changed the women’s game and attracted more viewers in point-six seconds than the last decade or so.”

Finally, Paul Brownfield described decision time for young players who wanted careers in the NHL in a New York Times article called “At 14, Top Prospects Decide if Path to NHL Runs Through College.”

It is a long piece and well worth the read, but here is the gist.

“Few major sports demand life-altering decisions from their adolescent stars quite the way hockey does. The N.C.A.A. regards the Canadian Hockey League’s three major junior leagues — the O.H.L., the Quebec Major Junior League and the Western Hockey League — as professional. As a result, top American prospects often face a difficult choice when they are 14: stay eligible for college or bolt to major junior hockey?”

What’s with hockey? Recalculating. There is a U turn in here somewhere. Maybe more than one.


  • John Patton

    As someone who has never played any real amount of ice hockey, I am not sure if this is hockey’s fault or just a societal shift. People seem to complain more openly when even just minor discomfort is experienced. I am thinking some of these players and fans might need a good “First World Problems” reality check.

  • John


  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the post Dan.