There are always ways to improve.
Whether on the ice or off of it, the hockey community is constantly looking at new ways to help grow and increase effectiveness within the sport. Through practice techniques or governing rules, making changes to the sport of hockey can only help create a more positive environment around the game.
Throughout the debut season of the Breakaway podcast, guests on the show have been asked how they would see hockey be improved. The answers varied across the board from former hockey players to trainers to Hockey Canada officials, but one common thread was emphasizing the positives of the sport.
“I think in a perfect world, every kid would have the opportunity to try hockey, to play hockey. There would be rinks everywhere,” said Ludovic Lord. “Hockey would be so much more accessible, not that it isn’t, but you’d have ice times everywhere. Kids would have sticks and kids would just get to play hockey. I think that would be a perfect world, and everyone would get to play the game.”
It’s no secret that hockey is a sport of dedication and can take up the majority of one’s week. That’s something that other guests would like to see change, especially in the younger age groups.
“One thing that concerns me is the high level of structure that we want to continue to push in minor hockey. I find it difficult to comprehend that kids from six to even 12, 13, 14 have to be on the ice more than three or four times a week,” said TSN’s Darren Dreger. He sits on the board of the Whitby Minor Hockey Association and has been on both rep and house league committees.
“One of the things that I’d like all parents to appreciate is it’s not likely that any of these kids are jumping from minor hockey to the National Hockey League. We collectively as a hockey society need to allow them to be kids first.”
Former NHLer and current hockey writer at TheScore, Justin Bourne agrees with the notion of ‘too much hockey’ being potentially harmful for an athlete’s development.
“You got to play a whole array of sports to really develop different skills then come back to hockey and appreciate it and love it all the more when the winter rolls around,” said Bourne.
Still, it can all draw back to how people look at hockey from an outsider’s perspective.
“If I could change anything in the game right now, I think it would be the perception that hockey is dangerous, that it may not be the fun that people are looking for, that it’s too expensive and inaccessible. I think all of that is a misnomer and not necessarily true,” said Hockey Canada President Tom Renney.
For those in the sport, the competitiveness of trying out for rep teams is tough to hide. Sheldon Kennedy believes that this is starting at too young of an age when the focus should be on simply having fun.
“I look at how stressful these kids that are like eight years old being evaluated, whether they’re going to make this or that team and ultimately it’s about hanging out with their buddies.”
“At that age, we need to look at possibly different ways if we want to change that competitive culture at such a young age.”
Additionally, the OMHA reached out to Breakaway listeners on Twitter and asked for some of their suggestions on how they would change the game. These are just a few of the responses that were featured on the podcast.