Criticism Of Professional Athletes: Never Great Enough. by @ChicksDigHockey

It really bugs me when fans are brutal and relentless in their criticism of professional athletes who are experiencing a slump or whose skills are showing their age. Those leveling criticism aren’t those who have been where that athlete is now. Why do people who have no experience of top-level sport feel compelled to advise professional athletes? If you have a smart idea that could improve their game, it’s probably not something they haven’t already considered themselves.

Let me just say right now, I’m shedding no tears for athletes who are under achieving. They are well paid, often adored and live lives of prestige. That having been said, having unrealistic expectations that athletes can never fail to score, must always beat their man or did not see a play from ice level that you clearly see on your TV is ludicrous. As fans, we love to have our say and more often than not we err on the negative side, as it is not half as exciting to discuss how good something is.

We don’t even know we are being critical sometimes. I am so guilty of this. My friend Ryan and I are doing a series of posts looking at Fathers and Sons who play hockey; their similarities and differences.  In the post, I contrast Tie Domi’s scoring abilities with those of his son, Max. I wrote of Tie Domi:

 “….This is the point where we would usually tout a noteworthy player’s scoring accomplishments but in 1020 career regular season games, Domi only managed 245 points. While his stick may have whispered, his fists made a resounding rumble.”

NHL Photographer Dave Sandford who has been shooting hockey for close to 19 years and has been on the ice for 17 Stanley Cup raisings called me out on that. Dave is a friend and someone who has forgotten more about hockey than I will ever learn. He is kind and supportive but his reply to my criticism of Domi was spot on.

I humbly share with you the insight of someone who has had a front row seat and a back stage pass to almost two decades of player success and failure:

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Dave Sandford with Teemu Selanne

I always find it funny when I hear or read lines like you wrote (this is not criticism here just a general point) you wrote “Domi only managed 245 points” I always sort of chuckle inside when I hear those kinds of things said about players. Why you ask!? Well.. Cause 245 points is nothing to shake a stick at! Do you know what I’d have given to even skate in the NHL for one 30 second shift, hell even warm up!? Let alone even think about getting 245 points! I’d kill just to lace’em up.

Like I say this is not anything negative or about your piece here. Just hockey talk in general. I often say to people (and funny enough Tie is often the player mentioned when this comes up) but when people say “that guy sucks” or “get him off the ice he can’t score”.  I’m like… really!? You know he’s in the NHL, right? That means he’s among the like 0.5% of the best hockey players in the world! Yes, even a 4th line guy or 6th defenceman who sees 4.5 min of ice time is like 100000x better than you or I.

There’s a reason they are professional. I think I started to realize this when I was in my 20s and playing Friday hockey with the HHOF. We played with staff and a few alumni from the Leafs, NHLPA, Sabres, and CHL (among others) . We all had teams and played every Friday in Toronto for years. A lot of the teams had ex NHL players like Steve Larmer, Mike Gartner, Dale Hawerchuck, Ron Ellis, Paul Coffey etc. Some of the other guys who played were guys that played major Jr. They were drafted but didn’t make the show.

One who played and always comes to mind who played with the HHOF team, is my buddy Darren Boyko. In our Friday hockey games, Boyks was like Wayne Gretzky out there. He dangled and dazzled and he’d always say to me, “Just go to the net with your stick on the ice and I’ll get it to you”. He did. Always! Boyks was amazingly fun to play with and watch out there. He was so so damn good. I should say is so so damn good. Great in fact.

But this is where I’ll make my whole point to this story.. Boyks played 11 or 12 years in the Finnish Elite League. He retired as the all-time leading scorer in the league by a foreign born player. I forget his totals but Boyks ways great! A top player for years in a great league. ….but, he was drafted by his hometown Winnipeg Jets.

Boyks got the call to the NHL.  He was good enough to play in the NHL but he lasted a whole 3 shifts in one game vs the Boston Bruins . And that was it. The beginning and end of his NHL career. As amazing a player as he is, as mind blowing as his skills are to me and many others around him…. Darren was not good enough to be an NHL player.

It is this reminder, of him and a lot of other guys I’ve played with or against over the years of just how damn good you need to be to be an NHL player; the best of the best. So to get 10 points, 245 points or 500 points is an accomplishment.  Those guys blow me away, they are the elite of the elite, the best of the best and they all have different roles, as you said.

So, next time someone says “that guy sucks” just remember a guy like Boyks and how great he was.. Yet not great enough to play on a 4th line of a lower ranked NHL team. Those 4th line guys will start to look pretty damn good to you. Anyhow….thought I’d share. Anytime I see anything like that I’m always thinking to myself.. Ya ya if only! I wish I could have the skill to even skate warm up and hit an empty net.

I shall eat my humble pie with a scoop of ice cream. Thanks, Dave.

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