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Friday night. Where will you be?

St Marys Journal Argus editorial

It has been a Friday night tradition in the Stonetown for a long, long time: trekking to the arena (first on Water Street; then on James Street) for a Junior B hockey tilt featuring the St. Marys Lincolns.

Now, with the National Hockey League’s labour dispute eliminating much of the upper-level hockey we’re accustomed to watching on television, there’s a great opportunity for more people to take part in the tradition.

The product, after all, has all the necessary elements: although the skill level is obviously not as high as the NHL, the parity in this year’s version of the league’s Western Conference is so pronounced, every game is a toss-up. So far, the Lincolns have maintained their place in the top half, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to fear from the teams below them. And it doesn’t mean that a strong game on any given night won’t allow them to take down one of the conference leaders.

Aficionados of theatre, music or visual art might quibble about the cultural value of a sport that has, within its nature, a level of violence that regularly sees players removed to the trainer’s table.

Perhaps these hockey non-fans bring forward the following questions: Why would you take your kids to an event at which mid-teenage-to-20-year-old boys target each other physically, to the extent that there are sometimes injuries and sometimes harsh words exchanged — sometimes on the same stoppage in play?

Or why would you take your kids (or yourself, for that matter) to an event at which normally sedate St. Marys residents feel the blood boil within them, and hurl insults at referees and opposing players — who are just regular kids or men from a town just like ours, except they wear a different uniform?

But those people stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that they live in Canada; for a great number of their compatriots, hockey is their culture, or at least plays a significant role in their cultural identity. Warts and all, the approach to hockey that you’ll witness on a Friday night at the Pyramid Centre is part and parcel of being Canadian.

Anyway, isn’t art supposed to imitate life? So, when we see violence enacted in a play or movie, or someone’s grief depicted on a canvas, can we not assume that some sort of real-life struggle inspired it? And is there not, potentially, some sort of release possible for the viewer, so they themselves might not have to suffer the same grievous fate.

Sport as culture is no different. We experience the struggle of others, the aggression of others, so we ourselves don’t have to go through it ourselves.
And involving our kids in the experience is totally acceptable, as long as we’re able to keep things in a context to which they can relate.

So get yourself to a game. Leave your hockey prejudices aside and enjoy the story told each game, each period.

Let’s hope, meanwhile, that Lincolns management finds ways to capitalize — both in ticket sales, and in building the club’s profile — on the absence of NHL action. Their players are, after all, giving it their all largely for the love of the game, as opposed to money.

(S.S.)

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