Jack Blatherwick

Knights in armor


By Jack Blatherwick
Let’s Play Hockey Columnist

I’ll admit I’m biased by an era when parents didn’t carry equipment to the rink. Actually, parents didn’t even come to the rink. We walked 12 blocks, so we kept the equipment to a minimum, probably less than five pounds.

Questions popped into my head the other day when I stepped out of an arena and bumped into a dozen Mites accompanied by parents who were wheeling equipment bags much larger than the kid who had to put it on.

Questions like: Wheels? Where’d they come from? Why is the parent hauling the bag – not the player? How can you play hockey in a coat of armor? Does this remove all fear of being hurt? Does it forgive me for a cross-check, because I’m sure my opponent won’t get hurt? High stick? No problem; the helmet and facemask cover that part of the anatomy. Why are there shoulder pads in Mite, Squirt and PeeWee hockey? Large shoulder pads in girls’/women’s hockey? For what? What are these over-sized hockey pants for? Bruises to the butt? Big deal.

But those are issues above my pay grade – already settled by learned folks from the governing bodies. So, I’ll add a physiological question, since physiologists don’t have pay grades and governing bodies: I wonder why six-year-old speedskaters aren’t wearing armor when they learn to skate? Don’t they slide on their butt once in awhile and get a bruise? Maybe bruises aren’t a major problem in speed skating? Or maybe they don’t want to restrict the range of motion day after day and ruin a skating stride before it gets started.

Does a youngster in hockey develop less knee bend and a limited stride if he/she skates with restrictive armored pants day after day? Does equipment that weighs more than a weight vest promote learning patterns like slow feet? Do ridiculously over-sized shoulder pads make stickhandling a chore? Do full facemasks restrict vision? Do they prevent catastrophic injuries or cause them?

Looking into the future: Maybe speedskating folks will get smart like hockey and pay taxes to a governing body that will make their Mites safer. I picture the next Apolo Ohno waddling around the corners, safely decked out in his coat of armor. Progress.

Visit Jack’s website at www.overspeed.info.