Ask people what the highlight of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games was, and I’d bet a brand-new one-piece stick that a majority will
choose Sidney Crosby’s gold medal-winning overtime goal against the United States.
But while I truly believe this was the best Olympics I’ve ever seen and this edition of Team Canada was unbelievable, there was one negative that stood out to me throughout the competition.
Why was there only one Quebec-born non-goalie on the team?
Take a look at this year’s edition of Team Canada: Aside from defensive-zone faceoff specialist Patrice Bergeron – who was on the bubble to make the team at all – there were no other players from La Belle Province on the team who didn’t come in goalie format.
Indeed, while Bergeron was the only Quebecer represented outside of the crease, all three netminders were Quebecers.
At least we get that part of the game right.
The answer as far as I’m concerned is because hitting is not properly taught in this province.
The lack of hitting until bantam double-letters kills Quebec’s ability to develop top-notch players at the same rate as the rest of Canada. It is an essential part of hockey as we know it, and the development of our players is suffering greatly because we don’t teach it properly.
Now I’m not talking about fighting – let’s be very clear, this has nothing to do with fighting. That’s one thing I would ban from the game the world over, but that’s another subject altogether.
There’s nothing like a good hit in the corner to jostle loose the puck and pass it out in front of the net for a one-timer. Or an open-ice Scott Stevens-on-Paul Kariya-style massacre that teaches people to skate with their heads up, which in turn opens up the game.
Take a look at the women’s game and you can tell there’s a certain something missing from the action – contact.
Clean checking has always been and always will be a fundamental part of the men’s game, and as a province we’ve fallen and are continuing to fall even further behind.
The problem is that kids in Quebec don’t learn to hit, so they don’t develop as well at the higher level. Kids in Ontario and a handful of other provinces teach how to hit as low as the elite atom level, and then others teach it at the higher house league levels in peewee. Take a look at the development of American hockey players over the last 10-15 years – they also start hitting at a very young age, and in many areas at the higher house league levels.
Basically it comes down to a safety issue – Hockey Quebec has deemed that hitting isn’t safe and therefore should be avoided until the higher levels, and even then should only be practiced at an elite level.
Well that’s unacceptable if we as a province want to develop high-level players. The game has changed and if you can’t hit or take a hit properly, the odds will be stacked against you at the highest levels.
There are ways of teaching hitting that make it for the most part safe, and we’re not advocating hitting for low-level hockey.
Kids need to learn how to play the game properly and if we’re not going to teach it that way, then we’ll have to get used to having little-to-no representation at the higher levels.
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.