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On ice.

I went to see some college kids play hockey today.

This could easily be one of those blog posts that rants about how the NHL owners and players are all worthless greedheads, and how they are shooting themselves in the feet (if not the head), and how hockey played by unknowns for a crowd of 20 in a rink that smells like teenage socks is somehow purer and more righteous than that played in the NHL.

That would be bushwah, of course.

Grass-roots hockey is often sloppy and imprecise and frustrating to watch.

One of the players I saw today — I’ll spare him the embarrassment of identification — was so clearly deficient in passing, puck-handling and skating that I winced whenever the puck reached him.

The teams combined for 13 goals, one of them an own goal by a defenseman who chipped a bouncing puck the wrong way in front of his own net. That one made me wince too.

I’ve seen a couple club-level (sub-varsity) college hockey games, and there always seems to be one guy on each team who can outskate everyone else. That’s frustrating, too.

Seeing a big-league athlete take a game in the palm of his hand is magical. Seeing a bush-league athlete dominate just makes you think he should have gone to a school with a better hockey program.

All that being said, I enjoyed this afternoon’s outing. I expect I will go again, numerous times, between now and February or March when the local club squads pack it in for the year.

I would even go so far as to say that college hockey as played by the economics and engineering majors at Lehigh and Lafayette is one of the small undiscovered pleasures of the Lehigh Valley. It is low-key, spirited, and accessible. Free, too.

But, no lectures about how I don’t need the NHL when the humble local kids take the ice.

Amateur pluck has its place. So do the crisp laser-like passes and jaw-dropping finishing moves that only the very best can pull off.

One will hold me. But I still miss the other.

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3 responses »

  1. As a longtime Division I college hockey fan (Wisconsin season-ticket holder), I can say that at the top level, college hockey is tremendous, and vastly more entertaining than regular season NHL hockey. (Postseason NHL hockey is an entirely different and far superior game to the regular-season variety. Shouldn’t be. Is.) Most of the players in the top college programs are NHL draftees, but the lack of fighting and general goonery leaves more room to actually play the game.

    Reply
    • Div. I college hockey is indeed a great game (I got to see it at Boston U. many years ago) and I would definitely seek it out, instead of the club-level stuff, if there was a Div. I team somewhere close to my house.

      As an added bonus, Div. I rinks do not smell like teenage socks.

      Reply
      • Not entirely true. We once sat in the row behind the Wisconsin bench on the second night of a weekend series and it was pretty clear that their uniforms hadn’t been washed. I don’t remember the score, but the game stunk pretty bad regardless.

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