Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Hockey Life: Short shifts

Call me a hockey purist or a grumpy old man, but I have some issues with the "fans" who call Section 307 of the Tampa Bay Times Forum their home during Lightning games. They're loud. They're raucous. They're spirited. And, really, that's good to see.

But that's not the problem.

After sitting in that section last Thursday, in the Lightning's 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals, it'll be a long, long time before we buy tickets in that section for one simple reason: their emphasis, to me at least, is on turning the hockey game into a soccer match rather than celebrating the beauty of the game.

Most of the chants and antics (wearing bandannas over their faces) are borrowed heavily from soccer fans, especially ones we've heard on more than one occasion, (minus the f-bombs, thankfully) from the overzealous Ralph's Mob group at Tampa Bay Rowdies games.

Sorry, folks, but if I wanted to listen to that (and I don't), I'd go to Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg. No, when I go to a Lightning game, I'm there to watch the game, share lessons with Colin and enjoy myself. I don't want to listen to sophomoric sayings from people who couldn't tell the difference between icing and offsides.

To their credit, they would engage in traditional "Let's go Lightning!" chant as well as the "Tampa!" and "Bay!" cheers at proper times, but most of their other noise, and that's all it was, came at inopportune moments.

To me, being a hockey fan is more than making lots of noise. Cheering has to fit the game, make perfect sense and, honestly, be funny, pointed and, more importantly, original. In time, I'm sure this group will get that. Until then, though, bring some earplugs because all you'll hear is noise.

A far better example, if you will ...

During Thursday's Capitals-Lightning game, Washington's Alex Ovechkin started complaining to one of the referees about a non-call. Of course, the knowledgeable segment of the pro-Lightning crowd, as if almost on cue, cascaded a chorus of boos upon him.

Once the roar subsided, and well out of his earshot up in Section 307, I shouted this condolence: "Sorry, Ovi, but your last name isn't Crosby!"

Thankfully, it drew more than a few laughs.

An update

It's not that my plans to bring an international youth hockey tournament to the Tampa Bay area have fizzled, it's just that I haven't had much news to share. Over the holidays and between major hockey announcements, I maintained my effort. Late last week, it may have been rewarded.

Though short of getting a green light and confirmation of some much-needed assistance, I heard from the Event Development Institute, an extension of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, that the group would like to continue our conversation of making this dream become a reality.

In the days ahead, I'll be reaching out to an organization that appears to be the final piece of the puzzle.

Given the news that Hockey Bay will host the 2016 Frozen Four and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission is considering a bid to bring the IIHF World Juniors Hockey Championship to the region, it's easy to see this youth hockey tournament serving as a complementary event.

As always, stay tuned.

Here we go ... again

If doesn't seem all that long ago, but it has been about five years, when Colin first suited up, as a 7 year old, with the Pinellas P.A.L. Stars Squirts/Pee Wee squad. Now, more than 100 games later, he's the squad's captain and finds himself, based only on his age, nearing the end of this run.

This morning, he'll take part, as a 12 year old, in his first Bantam-Midget game for the Stars, playing against kids as old as 16. It's a step up, definitely, but one he has to take as he'll make the move, should he make a travel-team roster, later this fall.

Just like his first-ever games, when his jersey fell below his knees, he'll have plenty to learn. Hopefully, his game and confidence will grow each time he steps on the ice.

On a personal note

Between a visit last week from one of my favorite journalist friends, which included taking in a Tampa Bay Lightning game, to this week's road-trip tournament, when we'll see some relatives, it's very satisfying that we get to share our hockey journey with others.

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