Sports ‘n’ Things: Hockey concerns over ‘development’

"Good thing it looks like the Nitehawks will be moving along the KIJHL playoff path for a while."

Just when It looked like ball season was upon us, three more inches of snow. Good thing it looks like the Nitehawks will be moving along the KIJHL playoff path for a while.

Everyone is pleased that the Grand Forks Border Bruins have finally experienced some success after two decades of relegation to the bottom ranks of their league. Actually winning a round in the playoffs should be icing on the cake for them.

But, they have not seemed the type of team to be satisfied with just improvement on their history, so here’s hoping the Nitehawks do not let up, at all.

Tonight’s game, just so Beaver Valley fans do not get complacent, is not a given win for the Nitehawks. This Bruins team has shown a willingness to scratch and claw and work at the game, and it isn’t as if they have not won at the Hawks’ Nest and given Beaver Valley fits many times already this season.

So, if you believe home support matters to your team, you should go. And, just in case the odds are right, start planning your schedule for a torrid series between the Hawks and the Kimberley Dynamiters.  Kimberley, like Beaver Valley to date, has lost just once in two playoff rounds and were always going to be the sturdiest barrier between the Nitehawks and an umpteenth appearance in the league finals.

• It is still highly unlikely that any team Canadian hockey fans care about, unless they are turncoat supporters of American-based franchises, will be in the NHL playoffs this year. So, the movers and shakers of Canadian hockey are again nibbling around the edges of, “development.”

Trouble is, they are nibbling on the same old tired junior age-related cheese as they have over the past two decades. Nowhere in the musings of the movers and shakers do I hear consideration of the basic problems – access and coaching, with a little concern for injuries.

The access problem is long standing. A smaller percentage of a smaller cohort of young people is taking up hockey, because it is too expensive for many families to justify their participation.

The coaching situation is, too, long standing. It is more than 20 years since a pee wee rep coach told  me he coached systems, not skills, because, “they (his players, all of 12 years old) are supposed to know all that stuff by the time I get them.”

That has filtered upwards to the point that even many NHL players cannot shoot an effective backhand, or execute a flip (saucer) pass, or turn effectively (or quickly) in both  directions on their skates. Some of that is covered up somewhat with brute speed, strength and conditioning and almost robotic positional play.

The powers that be see nothing wrong with that, so expect nothing to come out of their current round of hand wringing over, “development.”