I was talking with my wife about jr hockey and before i get started, you should know a couple things.
1)She's a Habs fan.
2)Like me, she got into jr hockey when the IceDogs came to town
3)She hates Nazem Kadri
Okay then. Onwards we go.
We were doing the dishes last night, and were talking about ticket prices for the new arena here in Niagara. I said a small bump in attendance could happen for two reasons: 1)people coming to looky loo the new barn and 2)people coming to games who refused to go because, well, The Jack isn't the most accessible or comfortable of places.
"Thats stupid, arenas like Niagara and Sudbury ARE jr hockey. Kitchener was nice but too professional."
I agreed on that point. Sudbury and our barn have history resonating from every concrete block, every expose wooden beam holding the roof up, the tight concourses, old school score boards, and tight spaces.
All these new rinks are trying to be NHL Lite.
This, she says, is leading to problems with rookies.
"Look at London and Kitchener. Look at their scoreboards, their dressing rooms, its all NHL stuff. Kids aren't paying their dues these days. They're not roughing it. Shitholes like The Jack and Sudbury are where you learn your place. Thats why Kadri is the way he is. He got spoiled in London"
Interesting point. I mean, Alex Pietrangelo never tossed a stick at my wifes head (Kadri). Maybe playing in a depression era barn kept him humble and in his place?
Now, The Jack has its flaws (cramped, smells of mold, has rats, wooden benches, one entrance) but it has charm and character. The JLC in London has none of that. It has ample legroom, clean concessions, audio equipment that works, video scoreboard. Who wants to watch a game there?
Are Jr players spoiled these days? More than they used to, but these days an owner cant be a tightwad. You need to compete with NCAA scholarships. You need to draw kids in from Europe (for now) and the US. It costs money to get those kids to drop their College commitments. You think the Generals built a nicer change room that the Leafs (true, I've been in both) for fun? No it was to lure talent like Tyler Biggs away from the NCAA!
Sadly the days of the rundown Jr rink that gives you a sense of community are ending. Now its all about multi-purpose entertainment centres. Year round events and selling suites.
So yeah, the kids will get custom wrapped buses, and cushioned dressing room stalls, and rat free locker rooms. Hotels to stay at overnight and burlap sacks of cash to not play anywhere but London (Domi).
But they won't get a sense of roughing it and paying their dues. Suffering through a game on a bench that could collapse at any moment and where you could trip over steel support beams sticking out diagonally (true story, if youre at The Jack look at an empty IceDogs bench). That stuff builds character. Not tantrum having stick throwing primma donnas (Kadri).
I'll go see games on padded seats, and with legroom and not fill my lungs with poisonous mold. I'll go in April and not miss the game because the glass is fogging up. I'll listen to crystal clear sound and watch HD Video.
But I'll be grumbling about Kids These Days while I do it.
(FYI I love Kadri, but my wife never forgets the sight of a stick flying towards her head and shattering in the glass between the player bench and the seats)