Instead of the typical, “Oh I love the game it’s such a great experience,” comments I have been saying since we attended our first tournament in 2004, I wanted to share my thoughts as a team representative to give you an idea of what goes on as we continue to make our game better. Of course, the tournament was a great experience and the Philadelphia group does a wonderful job as hosts.
We missed the tournament in 2012, so I was interested to see how the game has evolved since 2011. In the past, the game centered around a team finding a super strong player to basically dominate the game. These players were able to shoot and score from the other end of the court. Over the years, all players became more skilled, so these players became less dominate. Goalies rarely let these shots in anymore, which is great because it forced us to evolve into more of a team game. Players have to pass to get the goalie and defense moving.
That’s all great, but I did notice one problem in that the game has evolved from the long shot to crashing the net and jabbing away at the goalie until the referee blows the whistle. In our game, when the goalie covers the ball, it’s like an ice hockey goalie catching it and it’s a dead ball. By the referees not blowing the whistle quickly and allowing the jabbing, the goalie is at a huge disadvantage. Yes, I play goalie if you can’t tell.
We want our game to be as close to ice hockey as possible, so what happens in ice hockey when an opponent jabs at a goalie? He gets punched! Of course, we don’t do that in our game, so a quick whistle would be appreciated. They blow it quickly when goalies without footrests cover it with their feet, so why punish those of us who require footrests?
Another issue that has been discussed for many years is speed limits. This has always been tabled because faster chairs make the game faster and it’s a more entertaining game. I think it’s about time to re-open that discussion because there were people going 10 mph in this tournament. Granted, those athletes were very skilled and were safe, so my concern is not with them specifically.
My concern is that in all sports when programs are building to a championship level, they work hard to get stronger and faster by training. Those that don’t put the work in are left behind. It’s a great concept because I believe hard works pays off and people should strive to be the best they can be, but this concept has its limits in our game. When we want to want to get faster, we try to find a faster chair. I don’t believe that’s an improved skill, but more of a lucky break. Perhaps they find a used, faster chair on eBay or they are fortunate to have the funds to buy another chair specifically for hockey.
If we set this precedent, then all players will try to drive chairs going 10 mph when they may not have the reaction ability to handle such speeds. This will lead to more potential for injury as our game turns into a demolition derby. Not to mention chairs will be broken, which would immobilize those with only 1 chair. The players who cannot handle a chair at 10 mph may be forced to quit playing the game, which goes against everything the sport stands for.
Powerhockey was created because some of us don’t qualify for any other available sport. I don’t think we should lose that aspect just to go faster. Let’s be honest, when someone is on a breakaway and someone catches them from 50 feet away before they can get a shot off, where’s the entertainment value in that? Yes, it’s great for a fan of the faster team, but my job is to look at the game as a whole.
As we begin our fall meetings, I’ll be bringing the speed issue back up. I think 8.5 mph is fast enough for our sport. My colleagues may not agree, but I hope they understand these opinions aren’t because we lost. We have always been the slowest team, so it’s nothing new for us. My thoughts are purely to help the development of our game and those who participate.