I uncovered an interesting statistic this week concerning my hockey career — I was in the norm when it came to talent since I never made it to the National Hockey League.
According to no less an authority than hockey hall of fame player Bobby Orr, only .0025 per cent of all kids playing hockey ever play one game in the NHL.
Mr. Orr was certainly part of the .0025 per cent, in fact he was arguably the best player to play the game. Knee injuries limited him to just nine full NHL seasons and parts of three more but they were brilliant, innovative and free-wheeling ones, filled with awards and accolades.
While the Boston Bruins great was absolutely brilliant on the ice, off of it he was a stereotype ‘ah-shucks Canuck’, always soft spoken, respective and humble. He preferred to let his actions on the ice do his talking.
After his premature retirement 35 years ago he didn’t moan and complain, rather he didn’t say much of anything, at least nothing controversial. So the launch of the book, “Orr: My Story”, is generating lots of buzz in hockey circles as the public finally gets a glimpse inside his hockey mind.
The launch of the book coincides with a major change in minor hockey. This year bodychecking is banned at the AAA and AA peewee level, which involves players aged 11 and 12. It was already not allowed at the ‘A’ level.
And it isn’t just happening in this province, it has been implemented across the country by Hockey Canada with an aim of reducing injuries, especially concussions and other head injuries.
The argument in favour of bodychecking at such a young age is that it helps players learn how to take a hit, as well as hand one out, and prepares them for the older age classifications that allow bodychecking, for example the bantam, midget and junior levels. But the new rule now wisely dictates what should be obvious, we don’t need 11 and 12 year olds running around trying to bash into each other.
While Orr is a big proponent of hockey’s physical play, and has no problem with the odd fight, I don’t think he would disagree with the no bodychecking rule for peewee players. He is on the record as saying the emphasis in minor hockey should be on fun, not professional development. As he has pointed out, the elite players will always find their way to the top in any sport.
“We don’t have any control on what goes on at the NHL level in minor sports,” Orr said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press. “But we’re supposed to have control over our kids’ programs. There should be rules (for) what happens inside their organizations, and we all have to work together to make sure it’s a great experience for every kid. In my case, my fondest memories are of my days of minor hockey, and for some kids that’s not happening and that’s wrong.”
Hockey is, and will always remain a very fast and physical game so there will still be lots of rough and tough play involved in the peewee games. But let’s do all we can to ensure the precious young minds of the participants are not harmed.
After all, the players will need all their wits about them as they make their way in the world since few will be among the “.0025 per cent.”
Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter@GaryGuardian.