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2 Minutes for Hooking and Personal Responsibility

5 April 2010 Leave a comment

This has little to do with the topic at hand, but there’s a band (or there was a band) called 5 for Fighting, which I loved for having a name that would instantly resonate with many Canadians, and be complete nonsense for anyone else. It’s always interested me how much we need and enjoy in-group references and other ways of distinguishing ourselves – even in the groups we belong to. Inclusion is the holy grail, but everyone enjoys an in-joke to make them feel special as well. For those of you who don’t understand what ‘5 for Fighting’ could possibly mean, e-mail me and I’ll explain.

But today’s musings do have to do with hockey. I can’t figure out whether I should be encouraged that at my age there are still some pretty fundamental things left for me to discover, or in despair at that fact that even at my age there are still fundamental things left for me to discover! I’m reasonably certain that I’m going to have that cartoon light bulb going off over my head even as I draw my last breath. It’ll be good to have something to think about in the afterlife – keeps the mind active.

Anyhow, I was thinking about the last time I played hockey, a few weeks ago. I was playing defence and one of the opposing forwards broke past me and had a breakaway. I was chasing as hard as my body will permit these days and trying to impede his shot by hooking his hands from behind.

The other guys on the ice started calling ‘stop hooking’ because ours is a ‘geezer league’ in which the baseline rules are ‘no hitting’, ‘no slapshots’, and no impeding someone who gets past you. Now the latter is a rule in any form of hockey, but the consequence in competitive hockey is that  it results in a penalty. We have no penalties in our league (or refs, for that matter) so there are no consequences except for the other players taking umbrage (which is not a consequence to be sneezed at). But in competitive hockey it’s something a defenceman has to do to – knowing that it will result in a penalty – in order to try to prevent a goal after having been beaten or outsmarted/outpositioned by an opposing player.

These basic rules in our league are subject to individual amendment – consider them sidebar agreements. There are certain guys who engage in bumping in the corners and in front of the net, for example, or will take a shot that is as close to a slapshot as possible, while still leaving them with a sliver of plausible deniability. These individual caveats are generally understood and we play accordingly.

Now, as a defenceman (with hands of stone, to boot), I put preventing a goal above everything else – because there’s a premium on that in hockey, as I said earlier. But I later realised that I had been abdicating my personal responsibilities by engaging in illegal behaviour in order to avoid the consequences for my own personal failings – that’s a lot of $5 dollar words for a discussion about hockey, eh? In competitive hockey there’s a ‘do whatever is necessary’ ethos and if you have to spend 2 or 5 minutes in the penalty box as a result, you still gotta do what you gotta do. But to engage in that type of behaviour in this league, where there is no greater goal to pursue than the enjoyment of each individual game, is really unconscionable. So if any of my teammates are reading this, I hereby pledge to become an ethical hockey player and let whoever gets past me have an honest shot at glory. There’s nothing more fundamental to making our society work than taking personal responsibility.

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