I was in Portage for Sunday’s game between the Terriers and the Steinbach Pistons when I got to talking with an individual there.
This guy has been doing lighting for decades. He told me his story, how he’s been very busy with weddings this summer and how he enjoys doing the hockey games when he can.
We talked equipment and cost vs fan experience and entertainment value.
It was a conversation I sat and thought about on the way home.
There are a lot of really talented people around the province that just want to make the MJHL special for fans and players alike.
Let’s start this week’s Takes with that in mind.
Take 1: All teams should be putting effort into their game day operations, especially when it comes to showcasing their players. Whether it’s a small fog show, light display or showcasing their players faces on a big screen, it’s a detail outside of the actual game that is really neat for everyone.
Take 2: In arena announcers and broadcasters please, PLEASE take a few minutes, ask someone from the opposing team how to pronounce players names. It takes so little time yet all across the league on Hockey TV, radio or in the rink, names are mispronounced. I know the guys on the bench laugh when it happens but parents and family don’t find it nearly as funny. I speak for myself, too because I’ve been known to butcher names but it’s something that’s fixable.
Take 3: The brisk weather is a reminder that some rinks in the MJHL – and I’m not going to name names but we all know – are going to be so cold again this year. It gets to the point where you have to go outside to warm up because it’s actually colder in the arena. Fans bring blankets, big jackets, and toques. Coaches have their big heavy coat and long underwear. Those little heat packs are also life savers. If you see a pack on sale, pick them up and give them as a gift to the staff. They will appreciate it.
Take 4: I don’t think we as people around the game understand just how hard it is to run a practice. There’s a lot of moving pieces to put together to have what coaches call a “good skate”. They have to have a plan in advance, have the drill figured out, get the player’s attention, point out details yet be flexible enough to change things if it’s not working. Then there’s balancing fun with work. Can’t always be a drill sergeant.
End of the day, coaching is hard.
Take 5: I’m very much looking forward to the MJHL Showcase coming up in Portage November 22nd-24th. All the teams will be playing under one roof for fans and scouts to enjoy. It’s been way too long since we’ve been able to see some of these teams. Plus, with the amount of talent in the league, getting to see them in person is pretty exciting. If you get the chance, get tickets to multiple games. Make a day of it. Come support your team and stay to check out the other games.
Take 6: Sticking with the MJHL Showcase, to figure out who’s playing who, you have to read slowly to make sure you understand it. I had to read it multiple times. It’s as follows: “(It) will feature all 12 member teams playing two non-divisional games each based on standings at the time. The Showcase is scheduled to begin directly after the first half divisional matchups have concluded, which will provide a very competitive and high-performance environment for the teams, athletes and the many scouts in attendance.”
So, if the Showcase was today the matchups could be Winnipeg Blues vs Dauphin Kings, Steinbach Pistons vs Waywayseecappo Wolverines, Swan Valley Stampeders vs Winkler Flyers, Virden Oil Capitals vs Selkirk Steelers, Portage Terriers vs Neepawa Titans and OCN Blizzard vs Winnipeg Freeze.
Most of those matchups could easily be MJHL finals previews.
Take 7: I’m a big fan of stories like this – Travis Hensrud of the Pistons and Cole Mackenzie of the Flyers both grew up playing hockey in the Thunder Bay, Ontario area. They played on the same team for a couple seasons and became friends. I got a message from Travis’ mom after the Pistons played the Flyers and she told me that the two families got together to listen to the game. They even had a little wager on it. She said both families were really proud of their boys and that the moment meant a lot to them. It meant something to the players too.
That story is not uncommon as I’m sure there are many listening parties from across Canada and into the United States that root for their own son but also have close connections to other teams in the MJHL. A cool reminder how small and tight knit the hockey world can be.
Take 8: If you’re a fan in a rink that doesn’t have netting all around it, I’m quite jealous. The chuck-a-puck is a staple in rinks and it’s so great to see the kids or even grownups for that matter, get all excited chucking that orange sponge puck onto the ice. It’s really, really hard to do so if you’ve won before, good on you. If you don’t usually partake, try it once and you’ll be hooked.
Take 9: A great way to support the team and look good is by buying the team merchandise. This is going to sound like a commercial but it’s an important part of the business. Lots of fans buy but it’s also great for mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, sister, brother, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife. There are some really slick items available. Don’t complain about the price either. You’re getting authentic team gear and it’s going to be more than the clothes you buy elsewhere. If you buy some, I’m sure the marketing person would be happy to listen to any suggestions you may have on other items that could be sold.
Take 10: Is there a better sound then a puck hitting a post? Even in warmup, it still gives me goosebumps. Sure, posts are bad when it’s your team hitting them in a game, but they are a goalie’s best friend and a great, great sound to hear… sometimes.
Take 11: I hope all teams are doing something for Mo-Vember. Whether its teams growing mustaches and donating to support (which, teams should be sharing pictures because there are some great and some horrible staches across the league) or doing special jersey’s which they then sell and donate the proceeds. The MJHL has always done a great job with things like this and here’s hoping they take it to the next level. Special, one-of-a-kind items for collectors are always a win.
Take 12: Can we all agree to be done with the shootout? 3 on 3 overtime should be 10 minutes. If you can’t get a winner in those 10 minutes, somethings wrong. The entertainment, the strategy, the insane talent and speed on display is too good to be locked into 5 minutes only. Let’s have 10 and then see how many breakaway-challenges decide games.