The Day After

By Jason Menard

I woke up this morning. The sun continued to shine. The birds continued to chirp. Armageddon didn’t come as expected.

Yes, the world continues to spin on its axis, even though the Hartford Whalers won the Stanley Cup.

Even though the Whalers departed the insurance capital of Hartford, Connecticut for the sunnier climes of South Carolina back in April of 1997, the team’s theme song Brass Bonanza continues to bore a hole in my consciousness. And despite the apocalyptic hyperbole from so-called hockey purists, the fact that the Stanley Cup remains in the Southern United States isn’t such a horrible thing.

Life goes on, hockey continues, and the sun continues to shine as we gear up for the NHL draft, training camp, and the start of yet another season in just a few short months.

While Carolina and Tampa Bay may not be the first places you think of when discussing hockey hotbeds, the fact of the matter is that the sport continues to grow in hot-weather climates. Success like these two can only help to build a foundation for the fastest game on ice in the land of NASCAR and cigarettes. And if, as Canadians and self-proclaimed custodians of the game, we’re truly concerned about the league’s future, we should be happy that the league will garner some attention in non-traditional markets.

After all, if the cup only rotated between Montreal, Edmonton, and Detroit, it would be hard to build up interest in other cities, now, wouldn’t it?

In fact, Carolina isn’t the oddest team name to grace the Cup. The bustling metropolis of Kenora (population approximately 16,000) won the cup back in 1907. Thankfully, they didn’t engrave the city’s original name on the Cup – Rat Portage makes Carolina look high-class in comparison.

Since then, the Cup was shuttled through the Original Six (even Toronto, although the last reference may be fading by now), residing most of the time in Montreal either with the Canadiens, Maroons, or Wanderers. It’s only been in the past few years that non-traditional markets have been allowed into our club.

Sure, Edmonton’s a newer club, but really is there any place more hockey than frozen Alberta? Same thing for Calgary. The Islanders mini-dynasty put the Cup back in the New York area carved out by the Rangers, and the Penguins back-to-back championships was accepted due to the city’s lunch-bucket mentality (and proximity to Philadelphia).

But Carolina? Tampa? Perish the thought.

If hockey fans are anything, they’re snobs. They may call themselves purists, but really it’s nothing more than elitism masking as concern for the game. Even though history will show that the recent rules changes will be responsible for making the game more exciting and dynamic than ever, “purists” were sitting there acting all curmudgeonly and bemoaning the bastardization of “our” game. Instead of embracing change, instead of welcoming new people to the club, these so-called purists are doing everything they can to keep people out of their self-created exclusive club.

Soccer, a sport with arguably more history and a greater entrenchment in the societies in which its played, constantly fiddles with the rules, their interpretations, and even the equipment used. Heck, in this World Cup – the pinnacle event for soccer fans globally – the powers-that-be have introduced a new, lighter ball to improve scoring.

Do we hear soccer purists complaining about the bastardization of the game? Do they look upon this year’s tournament with any less validity than those past? No, they’ve learned that the game must move forward and adapt to remain relevant. Simply doing things because that’s the way they’ve always been done isn’t good enough. Smart organizations – whether they’re in business or in the business of sport – know that constant re-evaluation of accepted business practices is the key to maintaining position in the marketplace.

There are no hockey gods coming down etching the rules of the game on frozen tablets for all to follow. The game has adapted. Remember the rover? Goalies without helmets? No? Probably because the game changed with the times and refined its rules to meet the changing tastes of its clientele. Change is good. Expansion into new markets is good. Closed-minded protectionism is what will kill the very sport these so-called fans claim to love.

After all, Carolina won the Cup and the world continues to spin. Thankfully though, the team-formerly-known-as-Hartford refrained from playing Brass Bonanza for old time’s sake, and scarring another generation of children for life.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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