On the weekend of Jan. 17-19, I had the pleasure of taking in some electrifying novice action at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts.
© Compass file photo
It was Bay Arena minor’s annual novice jamboree and featured 17 teams from all over the province. To say the least, the stadium was a hive of activity — both off and on the ice — would be an understatement.
If I could offer my humble opinion, novice hockey and lower are the purest forms of hockey.
Watching the games unfold, I could not help but smile as the young skaters put everything they had into any particular two-minute shift.
Whether they are jostling for position or trying to score that first goal, it's pure enjoyment.
Some were better than others, but that is to be expected, but at this level that does not matter.
At this level, the players are still learning the game. They’re still becoming accustomed to the nuances of offside and positional play.
But, that does not detract at all from the pure pleasure that comes with watching this level.
At times, hockey is not about what is happening on the ice. At times, hockey is about what’s happening on the bench, in the dressing room or heading to the rink.
Once this season, take a look at the bench and see what’s going on there. On one end, players listen intently as their coach points out some things they could do better while on the other, children are literally jumping out of their gear in anticipation of their next turn on the ice.
If you’ve ever watched the underrated hockey movie Mystery, Alaska, you undoubtedly know the scene where character Stevie Weeks skates a frozen river.
That’s how I perceive a novice player on the ice — free.
In that moment, Weeks is without confinement. When he is on the river are no rules, he just skates.
In novice, there are no rules. They just play.
Children are free to make hockey what they want at this level. It’s not about systems or being the right fit.
Every aspect of the game is new to these players. It might not seem it, but every novice game is different.
Unlike what hockey becomes as they grow older, which is a game so deeply controlled it eventually starts to look the same, no matter the level.
It’s like writer Walt Streightiff said, "there are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million."
As they say, there are two sides to every coin and novice is no different.
While novice is hockey at its finest, the age group is also where parents can pick up their worst habits.
For all of the laughter and shrieks of delight from parents as they watch their children, there are still parents that focus on accomplishments and personal play.
There are still the shouts of "go, go, go!"
These three words put emphasis on the player that should be placed on the team.
Think about it.
You’re screaming for your child to take the puck and go, but his coach is telling him to pass the puck.
You’re the parent. You’re voice is like a beacon in the darkness for the player.
Who do you think he is going to listen to?
It’s a habit parents don’t even know their picking up. They just want to see their child be the best he or she can.
As innocent as it sounds at this level, it only compounds at the next level.
— Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with the Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org