I heard from a fan — Murray in Saskatoon — on Tuesday night. He sent a fairly lengthy missive, that I have edited a bit. . . . What follows are his reasons for no longer being a season-ticket holder in the City of Bridges. . . . You are free to agree, disagree or discuss:
As a regular reader of your blog, some of your latest entries about WHL attendance touched on some subjects that I have been mulling over for the last few years. I have been going to Saskatoon Blades games since the early 1970s and my all-time favourite player is Joey Kocur. So you know the style of hockey I enjoy.
Many years ago at the old barn, Roger Millions interviewed the late Brian Shaw of the Portland Winterhawks. The question was: What is the difference between an American city compared to a Canadian city for watching junior hockey. I have never forgotten the response. Mr. Shaw said that “in Canada most everyone in attendance has played the game, coached it, lived it, followed it, been a parent for most of their life and therefore is an expert who has to critique every aspect of the game, whereas in the U.S. they go for a good time, to drink some beer, to watch some fights and have fun.” I try to take that mindset with me and just enjoy the game, but it seems each year it is getting less entertaining. The best hockey I have ever seen was the Blades vs. Medicine Hat battles of the ’80s. I would pay $40 today to watch Tony Twist pound on Clayton Gainer.
I did not renew my season ticket this year for a number of reasons:
(1) Price: I did not appreciate the rather large increase for my seat, now called a club seat, which is padded and has in-seat food service. Paying $607 for one seat to junior hockey seemed ridiculous. Yes, I had the option of moving to a non-club seat but was disappointed that the Blades hammered the core of their season-ticket holders with this price increase. Other changes with the club seats include no senior or child prices. So if you are 10 years old or 65 years old you pay the same price. Not right.
(2) Quality: The overall quality of play is pretty average. Too many teams equals a watered-down product, games done in just over two hours, no flow.
(3) Over-coached: Teams are so “coached” nowadays that the creativity is gone from the game. When Dale Derkatch was named coach of the Regina Pats, a newsworthy story was that he told his players if you create a turnover on the backcheck, you can do whatever you want going into the (offensive zone). Sure, his coaching gig didn’t go that well, but Curtis Hunt hasn’t exactly made Dale look bad. If the left winger isn’t three feet off the boards, heading in a 45-degree angle, following the centre across the red line at a precise moment the puck gets dumped in and they line change. Boring. By the way, what is a half-wall? If I hear Les Lazaruk make that call once more I’ll spear myself. I played the game for 20 years and never heard that. More of re-inventing the wheel.
(4) Mr. Referees: I am not paying $19.80 to watch you. The inconsistent and wimpy calls you make have kept me at home. I went to a game between the Blades and Prince Albert the other night and the linesmen were jumping in between players all over the ice. I’m sure Kevin Collins was proud. Absolutely no emotion by the players was seen or allowed. No emotion mean boring, uneventful play. Doesn’t anyone get pissed off any more?.
(5) Promotions: It’s pretty sad when the only way to get a crowd is to have Gene Simmons in net or — even worse! — have Kelly Chase doing a figure-skating number. It is an insult to a hockey fan to have to sit through this stuff. These promotions demonstrate that they have lost the true, hardcore hockey fan and are trying to get the non-hockey person to the game for the dog-and-pony show.
(6) No championship: Yes, the Blades have had some great teams and players but no Memorial Cups. How many chances do you get?.
(7) Fighting: All I can say to this is that the most exciting two minutes of Blades hockey I have seen in many years happened at the end of last season. After Red Deer bumped the Blades goalie three times before being penalized, Lorne Molleken sends out his power play and all heck breaks loose. I cannot remember the last time there was a standing ovation at Sask Place for a play in a game. When they have retired numbers, etc., there have been standing ovations but certainly not at the end of a game like this one. It was something.
This season, the Blades have traded away McNaught, Acolaste, Toomey, Gogol and Inglis. So much for a repeat performance.
(8) Rules: Kids today think they are tough. Take off the visors and that will separate the men from the boys, and also put a little respect back in the game. If Kocur had 40 goals and 258 PIMs in 1984, does that translate to 100 goals and 80 PIMs today?.
My rant has gone on long enough. As I sit here listening on the radio to the Blades in Vancouver, I still think amateur sports are the best. Keep up the good work on the blog.
Murray in Saskatoon