The final week before the final games before 2021 is behind us. We’ve got some special things cooking over the next couple weeks, given how much time teams will have off. But, that’s for later. Let’s stay in the here and now, shall we? Let’s go!
Take 1: I was up in OCN this past weekend for the first time in a couple years and there’s a number of thoughts I had throughout the weekend. I forgot just how cold it was in that building. At one point, I thought I was warm but I’m pretty sure it’s because I was numb. They’ve done some work in the rink and it’s brighter and I think the painting they did really spruced it up.
I cannot stand the horns. As a broadcaster and someone over 30, it’s way too loud and is used WAY too often. I’m sure the fans love it but trying to do games with the horns they have going off is almost impossible. I get it if they blast them when they score but when there’s a hit or clearing on a penalty kill or when a player from the other team falls down, there’s no need to blast the horns. If I was a fan, maybe I’d be less inclined to despise it the way I do, but I’m old and loud things scare me.
Side note: Shout out to the wonderful volunteers. From the kid doing the music to the wonderful online stats keeper. They were really awesome to chat with and were super helpful. The Blizzard organization have people that really care about the team and it’s special.
Take 2: While up in OCN, they just so happened to have their teddy bear toss. I love a good teddy bear toss. It’s not easy to get those bears over the high netting they have at the Gordon Lathlin Memorial Centre but fans managed to do it! Sure, some threw them after the first goal while others waited until intermission but when doesn’t really matter, it’s the fact they had the event. Hat tip to the fans that tossed teddy bears.
Take 3: I’ve done it before but I just want to take time to thank the volunteers, the teams, the players and their families for buying into the safety program. Things haven’t been easy but having MJHL hockey has been so great for so many people. More players are getting commitments to schools and a lot more are still to come from this year. Thanks again to all those involved in keeping things going, keeping people safe and doing their part to have MJHL hockey. Let’s keep doing our part so we can enjoy more in 2022 because let’s face it, the playoffs are going to be AWESOME! Have you seen the standings? Lots can and will happen over the next few months and I cannot wait.
Take 4: I threw it out there and Terriers knocked it out of the park. If you haven’t seen their Christmas singing video, go look. The players did a great job, Cody Buhler did a terrific job and it’s just fun. I’m really glad Portage did that. Any time fans can see the players having fun and not wearing their helmets, it’s a real positive thing. I will say, there’s a couple guys that could use a haircut for Christmas. Great job, Terriers and can’t wait to see what you do next.
Take 5: The MJHL season is a long one and for many, they get to play close to home. They get to see their families at games or some even still get to live at home during the season. For others, it’s a long way from parents and loved ones. The upcoming Christmas break is an opportunity for players to recharge but to also go and see friends and family again. Sleep in their own beds, which a lot of players say is what they look forward to the most. Billets do an amazing job making players feel at home but nothing can replace home itself. So, to the players traveling across North America next week, be safe and enjoy the time off. You’ve earned it.
Take 6: There’s a decent number of Americans across the MJHL and with Christmas, comes the World Junior’s. Massive bragging rights are on the line. American players are usually pretty outnumbered by the Canadians… (shocker, eh? Thanks Captain Obvious) … but they love the tournament just as much. Canada vs USA has been a long-standing rivalry and within the locker-rooms, there will be some chirps, some laughs, some frustration at times but only one nation can bring home the gold. Another cool part is so many guys have connections to the teams. There’s a good chance they know, played with or trained with a few guys on squads. Good luck to everyone…. but mostly Canada.
Take 7: Support your team by buying team apparel for Christmas. Teams, give players a discount as they pick up toques and mittens, sweaters and t-shirts for loved ones. Then, when players go home, get them to take pictures of their family wearing the stuff and post where they are in the world. Be cool to see all kinds of logos all across the world. It may be the Manitoba Junior Hockey League but the players are supported far and wide. Showing it off is never a bad idea.
Take 8: I was lucky to have a brief chat with an official recently. He talked about travelling to do games. How guys are going all over the place and doing all different levels because of the shortage of referees. Sometimes, it gets over looked just how far officials travel to do games. They give up their weekends, too. Without them, games don’t happen. This isn’t their only job, either. They work Monday through Friday then do games in the evenings and weekends. They love the game as much as the players and it shows most when they travel as far as they do.
Take 9: Random Thing I Don’t Miss About Hockey: The two-line pass. Man, am I glad that is no longer apart of the game. For those who don’t know… back in the day, you couldn’t make a pass from your own zone to over the red line. Think about that. No stretch passes. No springing guys on breakaways. You would have to touch the puck before the redline then do what you can with it. Imagine how much speed would be taken out if they still had that rule. Some of us don’t have to imagine, we remember and trust me when I say, it’s better now. Much better.
Take 10: Another random thought… do MJHL teams have Emergency backup goalies? What if a goalie is sick and one is injured? Is there a player on the team that would strap on the pads and have to play goal? I highly, highly doubt it would ever get to that point but stranger things have happened. I’m sure there’s at least one player that would put his hand up to try goalie. Do coaches still let goalies play out for a practice and have one of the players tend net? Maybe the coaches should try playing goalie sometimes. I’d buy a ticket to see a coach in goal while the goalies get 5 penalty shots. That’s quality entertainment.
Take 11: Maybe coaches going in net will never, ever, EVER happen, but when coaches and their families get out on the ice, it’s always something great to see. Family skates overall are amazing. Getting to see the players interact with the community and their billet brothers or sisters is special. Kids wait all year to skate with their big hero’s and the guys are always so generous with their time. They help tie skates, help the kids up when they fall and take pictures. I’ve got a lot of time for family skates across the MJHL and can’t wait to see more of them over the next few weeks and months.
Take 12: More travel for teams to close out 2021 and kick off 2022 so I’ve got a suggested podcast that’s very much worth a listen: Whistleblower. It’s about the NBA referee betting scandal. It’s the story of the official who was caught gambling on games, even ones he officiated and eventually was sent to jail. But it goes so much deeper than that. There is explicit language, so be warned. The 10-part series goes places you never imagined and I’m not underselling when I say you will never look at NBA officiating the same way again. For sports fans but especially basketball fans, it’s a must listen.