By Charlie Gillis - Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 0 Comments
Ken Campbell on the problem with Canada’s obsession
With $320,000, you could buy a home in a medium-sized Canadian city, or an education at an Ivy League university. Or, you could do as a growing number of parents do: spend it on personal trainers, road trips, sport psychologists and league fees in the faint hope your child will attain fame and fortune in hockey. Ken Campbell, a senior writer at the The Hockey News, and co-author Jim Parcels explore this phenomenon in Selling the Dream, a book about how hockey parents, kids and the game itself are paying a steep price for Canada’s national obsession.
Q: I was struck, as many hockey fans were, by an ad Nike ran just before Christmas, which played on a familiar and romantic notion linking pro hockey to scenes of frozen lakes and small-town arenas. How far does that imagery stand from today’s reality, as witnessed by a kid dreaming of an NHL career?
A: The dream is still pure for most people; hockey is and always will be an enormous part of the Canadian cultural fabric. But I want people, when they read this book, to realize that it’s time to dial things down a bit. Hockey has become almost too important in Canada; in a lot of ways, it’s all we have. We have athletes who excel in other sports, but the stakes in hockey have gotten so high that it seems all-pervading. People get caught up in the dream very quickly, and very easily.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, February 20, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
More kids, more rinks, and now, more popular than basketball
It was an unlikely cradle for a hockey prodigy. A sun-baked expanse of concrete, equipped with a makeshift set of boards—the haven of a passionate cadre of in-line skaters who in the mid-1990s had adapted the game of Wayne Gretzky to the climate of southern California. From the moment three-year-old Emerson Etem wobbled onto the roller-hockey surface at the Los Altos YMCA, it was clear he’d found his métier. “He just had this ability on wheels,” recalls his mother Patricia, a former Olympic rower. “It was a lot of fun to watch. But more than anything, I was intrigued.”
At six, Etem made the transition to ice, joining a house league in his hometown of Long Beach, then advancing through select teams run by the L.A. Hockey Club, an elite program based in Orange County. A stint at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, the fabled Minnesota prep school where Sidney Crosby played, led to an invitation to join the Medicine Hat Tigers of Canada’s Western Hockey League, where the 19-year-old has established his bona fides as a blue-chip NHL prospect. Last week, he became the first WHL player in 11 years to score 51 goals in 50 games. Next fall, he’ll attend the training camp of the Anaheim Ducks, who took him in the first round of last year’s NHL entry draft.
Canadians may dismiss Etem as an anomaly—the SoCal equivalent of, say, a gifted Slovenian discovered by a diligent scout. But if the growing numbers of young Americans taking a shine to hockey are any guide, we’ll soon see more like him. U.S.A. Hockey, the sport’s governing body south of the border, is on track for its fourth straight year of record enrolment, having cracked the half-million player mark for the first time in 2010-11. The U.S. has yet to catch Canada—we had 572,000 players last year of all ages, male and female. But its trend lines are better. Since the early 1990s, when the NHL embarked on its aggressive expansion into the U.S., the number of Americans playing the game has ballooned by 257 per cent. Canada’s registration levels have remained comparatively flat, averaging 550,000 over the last decade.