My love for the game has taken a massive hit this year. I'm in my late 30's now and I fell in love with the game as a 12-year-old. I didn't know how to skate but I learned and quickly joined a local league. I got steadily better over the next three years and then quit organized hockey when I turned 16 (school and work got in the way). I continued to rent ice and play with my buddies and I really couldn't watch enough hockey. In fact, I'd tape almost every game I saw. I would even tune into the French CBC (channel 54) to watch Nordiques games. It really didn't matter who was playing, I was obsessed. But this year, my love for the game took a massive Avery-esque dive. I have 2 young sons who were in minor hockey and both had bad years. My oldest, who was in his fourth season and a first-year Novice was benched multiple times throughout the year when the coach shortened the bench in the 3rd period to get the 'W'. (this is houseleague mind-you). Needless to say, this did not go over well with myself or the parents of other kids who also saw shortened time in order to win an all-important houseleague game. My youngest son started hockey for the first time in his Timbit division. For the first time, our board in it's infinite wisdom, decided to remove all games from the structure so it was nothing but practices until late February. I disagreed with this line of thinking, but I was willing to give it a shot (I volunteer on the ice like I have the past 4 years). The main problem was how horrible the practices were. Our convener wrote up the practice plans and they were terrible. All of the stations were a minimum of 10 minutes (some as long as 12-minutes) and included drills that most adults can't do. Imagine telling a 4-year-old, who can barely skate, to do cross-overs for 12 minutes on the blue line. Or 8-minutes of forehand shooting against a wall, followed by 8-minutes of backhand shots against the boards. Very rarely were the kids given free time with pucks just to have fun, and it wasn't very often that we were allowed to play fun games such as Cops-n-Robbers or British Bulldog to end a practice. The kids absolutely adore those games and give it their all when playing them. But since our convenor didn't see how those games helped develop skills, they were rarely instituted. Not only that, myself and other volunteers got the distinct notion from the convenor that 'FUN' wasn't necessary in this program. The reason why we stripped games from the curiculum? I was told because our travel teams were having problems beating a local town. So they figured we needed more skill development. I'm okay with that, but the practices were so bad, very few kids actually improved. In fact, out of the 4 years I coached Timbit hockey, this year was the worst for it. In previous years, kids that couldn't stand in Week 1, were scoring goals by week 20. Not the case this season. And it showed in attendance. We averaged about 65% attendance throughtout the year. My son, who was so geeked about his first year of hockey and wore his equipment in August around the house, suddenly didn't want to go to the rink anymore. I had to bribe him to get him there. He still loved to play hockey on our backyard rink, in the basement and even with plastic hockey players he got for his b'day. But as far as going to the actual rink? Forget about it. On top of this, the NHL game has never looked more boring to me. Every team plays the exact same. Almost every goal is from a rebound, deflection or screen. The most exciting hockey team in decades was forced to turn into a defensive trap system. One of the most exciting players on the ice was out for half the year with a concussion. And then there's the topic of all the horrific head hits, needless fights and the general tom-foolery that takes place on a nightly basis. I know I sound like a tree-hugger, but I'm tired of the useless violence that occurs in the NHL. Players couldn't care less if they kill one another. And it's trickling down to the lower levels. This year in my older sons Novice team I witnessed some horrific acts: - player chopped another player over the head with his stick for poke-checking the puck away. - countless body checks and forearms (even though it's non-contact). - a stick-fight near the end of a game. - an opposing player punched a number of kids on my sons team during the post-game handshake (the coaches from the other team apologized and said he's done this before because he doesn't take losing too well). - fans screaming at refs. - coaches screaming at refs. - players crying on the bench because they made a mistake and were berated by the coaching staff. I'm seriously wondering if I want my kids involved with this sport at all. What's disturbing is that some of the kids who were responsible for this violent behaviour didn't act anything like it during baseball and basketball. I have to think the reason is twofold: 1. Nobody in Canada takes those other two sports nearly as seriously (kids and parents included). 2. the MLB and NBA don't promote fighting and encourage giving into emotions like the NHL does. In summary, this whole year was just bad. I dislike the NHL product and I really didn't like the things I saw in my two sons divisions. I'm really started to question why I'm putting the time and money into this sport. Both my boys have taken a real shine to other sports such as swimming, basketball, baseball and soccer. And I'm okay with walking away from hockey as far as my kids go. It kind of breaks my heart though. I used to love hockey and when my wife gave birth to two boys the first thing I thought of was getting them on skates. I really couldnâ€™t care less if either play travel or any high level of hockey. I just wanted them to learn how to play so they could play as adults with their friends and pass on their love to their kids. But seeing how bad things are in the NHL and how bad things can get at the lowest of the grassroots levels, I'm not sure it's worth it anymore. I'll still continue to build a backyard rink and rent the ice for my kids (and my friends kids) so they can play here and there. But as far as organized hockey I might be done. Please feel free to respond with your own thoughts including any disagreements you might have with my opinions. I just wanted to see if anyone else feels the same, or has felt the same. Or maybe it's just a short phase and perhaps next year things could turn around. Cheers.