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The Death of Hockey

Nora Marsh

my boyfriend has bugged me for ages about my hostile view towards his beloved game. Every weekend or two he and his male friends get geared up for a rough and rowdy game of street hockey. This has been their tradition for years. Often after a game they will come in with beers in hand and watch the real thing on TV.

Death of Hockey book cover I sat down with this book for two reasons. One is that I figured I might as well try to understand and perhaps even enjoy the game. Secondly, I wanted to comprehend what it was that all these testosterone pumped men were complaining about.

The Death of Hockey, or: how a bunch of guys with too much money and too little sense are killing the greatest game on earth did not help make the technical rules of the game any clearer, but it sure helped me understand why I was hearing so much complaining every game night.

The authors neatly and humorously analyze what is wrong with "the greatest game on earth" point by point.

After beginning with a look at the days of old they approach the issue of how there are too many games per season. They comment, "It's all about money, of course," but fortunately they do not stop at such simple statements. By breaking down statistics they come to reasonable analyzations about the game.

Another problem is the quality of play, including the number of players the professional clubs get to choose from. The stats show the following ['players' means players at all levels of the game]:

Stats like these really make one wonder how it is that there is any talent at all in the NHL.

Other problems include the disparities between the rule book and actual play, the goalies which the author's compare to huge Transformer toys, soul-less arenas, the ridiculous size of the league, bad logos, and corporate influence, to name only a few.

Some of the most interesting commentary came in regards to violence in hockey and the justifications people have made for it.

If the theory that one's aggressions are dissipated by indulging them in a supervised environment were an accurate one, then there wouldn't be so many contact-sport athletes arrested for assault and rape, and social workers would treat wife-beaters by having them spend hours slugging life-size mannequins of women. No, fighting in hockey games never made the game safer in any way; fisticuffs prevent nothing, and only lead to more fisticuffs.

Overall The Death of Hockey is both well organized and well written. Besides their examination of the problems in the sport there is also a section which deals specifically with the changes that should be put in place and a "Hockey Fan's Manifesto." Much of this seems obvious even to a non-fan like myself (to see what real hockey-fans would think of this book I asked my boyfriend and his buddies what they thought of the points brought up. They unanimously agreed that all this stuff is obvious). This book would still seem worth reading if at least for the author's sense of humour.

However the suits in power have clearly been ignoring these suggestions. As far as I am concerned, Klein and Reif's ideas are excellent, and if implemented might even get a figure-skating fan like myself to tune into a different kind of ballet on ice.

published by macmillan canada
ISBN 0-7715-7622-6

Nora Marsh has never played hockey, and doesn't plan on it.

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