Hockey: Canada's Royal Winter Game/Chapter II
HOCKEY AS A GAME.
EVERY game, any game, aids considerably in developing a player's mind, and for hockey, a follower of the game may claim all the good effects in mental training that any other branch of sport provides, and more. The very adhering to the rules, the spirit of fair play that characterizes a manly game, the overcoming of all fears and all difficulties, the modest victory, the frank acknowledgement of defeat, all tend to build up, to educate, the mental faculties, just as the long practice, the swift race, and the hard check help to develope the physical man.
At a dinner once tendered to a champion team, a prominent banker, in speaking of the effects of sport in general and hockey in particular, said "that a good, clean sportsman was an acquisition to any commercial house," and his statement is correct.
A fast game like hockey, when the scoring of a goal, the winning of a match often depends upon the immediate execution of an idea that a player has scarcely the time to grasp, accustoms a man to think quickly and act promptly. Surrounded so closely by thousands of inquisitive eyes, the hockey player is almost prevented, through the reasonable fear of being promptly called to order, from indulging in any unbecoming work, of which, perhaps, in other games he might be guilty. Besides, the referee of a hockey match is so strongly backed by a clear code of rules, and has such an unobstructed view of the game, that the strict and continued observance of his omnipotence developes a certain character in a player, that has its good effects in after life.
"A sound mind in a healthy body."
As a muscular developer it stands without an equal, which to doubt would be a confession of one's ignorance of the game. The act of skating frontwards and backwards, not to mention the numerous times when occasion demands that we should go sideways, too, developes the muscles of the legs and back and expands the lungs, and the rush down the ice, twisting and turning, and being twisted and turned, exercises the muscles in the neck, the sides and the stomach.
The multiplex movements required in manipulating the stick, call into play, by shooting in the different ways, in checking, and in dodging, nearly every other muscle in the human frame, and, as in other games of great dexterity, the eye is quickened, brightened to a degree of judgment.
The proof that in a game of hockey every muscle receives its due exercise, is this, that after the first few practices, before he is "in condition," a player feels sore and stiff in every muscle of his body.
Being practically an out-door sport it is exhilarating and healthy, and productive of an absorbing appetite, which latter is borne out by the statement of an hotel keeper who once said that "a hockey team can eat more in a limited time than a team of footballers, or a lacrosse twelve with all their spares and coaches."
Speaking of skating as an exercice, Solzman, in his incomparable work on the subject, says:—"I am come to an exercise superior to anything that can be classed under the head of motion. I know nothing in gymnastics that displays equal elegance, and it excites such divine pleasure in the mind of the performer that I would recommend it as the most efficacious remedy to the misanthrope and the hypochondriac. Pure air, piercing, bracing cold, the promotion of the circulation of the different fluids of the body, the unalloyed and mental satisfaction of the various skilful movements, must have a powerful influence, not only on the frame of man, but on his mind likewise. Frank wishes that skating were universally introduced, as I know of no kind of motion so beneficial to the human body or more capable of strengthening it." Add to this the pleasure, the excitement afforded by a good, clean game of hockey, and we have an ideal sport.
2.—The men who play are, as a general rule, those who excel in other lines of athletic sport. If it is an easy matter to point out a foot-baller, or a lacrosse player, who is ignorant of other games, it is difficult to mention a hockey player who does not shine as an athlete in other branches. It seems that a hockey player, in playing the game, makes use of all the science he acquires in practising other sports, without the roughness. So much time is required to master the science of the game, to merit the name of expert, that circumstances have excluded from it the ruder, undesirable element, and it shall remain our royal game, because, in the clearness, the conciseness of its rules, in the scientific points of its play, in the social standing and the "bon hommie" of its players, it has yet to find an equal. So long as it remains free from the taint of professionalism it will remain dear to the hearts of all true sportsmen, all good athletes, but as soon as this vice creeps in the knell will sound for its death as a popular pastime. Because when a monetary consideration depends upon the result of a match in which professionals figure as participants, roughness, brutality, will characterize it, to the disgust of the spectators, whose attendance sustains the interest and provides the sinews of war which keep the game alive. Moreover, the athletic vice of professionalism should be stamped out for this reason, especially, that when a young man sees his way clear to earn a livelihood at sports, he will seldom fail to throw away on them the most valuable time of his life, by neglecting the duties that his age demands.
3. The sight afforded by a scientific hockey match acts upon the spectators in a variety of ways. Cold, uncomfortably cold, before the game begins, they are gradually worked into a state of warmth by an excitement that makes them forget the weather, their friends and everything but the keen scientific play in progress.
Without comparing it to an oil painting of a chariot race, an Indian buffalo hunt or a fierce battle, what is prettier than the spectacle that a good game presents, of four stalwart, shapely forwards tearing down the ice, playing their lightning combination, of a brilliant rush stopped by an equally brilliant defence play, of a quick dash through a struggling mass of excited players, or a ziz-zag, twisting, twirling, dodging run to score a deciding goal?
The pure air, the bright lights, the merry, laughing girls, the noisy enthusiastic boys, and age that's not too old to still enjoy the pleasure of a fascinating game, all combine, with the keen ice and the fast play, to make hockey the king of infatuating sports.
Essentially an exciting game, hockey thrills the player and fascinates the spectator. The swift race up and down the ice. the dodging, the quick passing and fast skating, make it an infatuating game. From the time that the whistle blows for the face-off until the exciting moment when the gong announces the end of the match, the players are rushing, struggling, and the spectators straining their eyes to catch every glimpse of the play.
Fast! it eclipses other games in this respect, as football outdoes croquet in point of roughness. Never a second to lose, never a moment to spare—an opportunity once lost is gone forever—and even one little slip, one miss, one fumble, is oftentimes the loss of a match.
So fascinating is the game to a man who rivets his attention on the play, that even the most thunderous applause, if he hears it at all, sounds like the far-off echo of a rippling brook, because he is engaged heart and soul in his work.
The convincing, the clinching proof of the fascination of the game is this, that even the gentler sex, not satisfied with enjoying it from the stand point of spectators, have graciously added their own, to the many charms that it already boasts, by bravely lining up to meet, in gentle combat, their tender adversaries.
It is surprising how many ladies' teams exist in Canada, and although we do not read of fast, exciting games between these graceful votaries of the sport, it is a slow, small town that can glory in not one such. Thus, hockey players may flatter themselves that their game is honored in a way that no other of the kind may claim.
"The saddest things of all we see
Are the things that hadn't orter be."
4. There are, unfortunately, in hockey, as in every other athletic sport, dangers against which a player should protect himself, and although comparatively few and insignificant, they should be mentioned in order that they may be guarded against. Forewarned is forearmed, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so, it is not out of place, in this book, to draw attention to the accidents, serious or otherwise, which occur in this exciting game.
A player who intends to aspire to senior ranks, should, in justice to himself, consult a physician and have his heart examined. If the advice that he receives is to abandon the game, let him do so at once before it is too late, because, so fast, so intensely exciting is the play that, if long continued, it may easily be the cause, to a forward with a weak heart, of the enlargement of that organ. This serious danger, however, should scarcely be mentioned, because it seldom happens that a man who is strong enough to play hockey the least bit well, is liable to contract this formidable disease. Proper training and careful practice soon put a man in a condition to stand the hard strain of an interesting contest, without any injury to himself, because the muscles are developed, and the "wind" increased to such an extent, that in the short space of two half hours, his endurance is not overtaxed, however fast the game may be.
It happens that by frequently falling on it, a player contracts water on the knee. But in what game is a man not exposed to the same accident?
It is realy surprising how many players court danger by playing hockey in short pants which affords no protection to the knees. This is a foolish, dangerous practice. A pair of pants, well padded at the knees, prevent the player from injuring this tender, vulnerable spot, and in their weight, differ so little from the others, that in every respect, they are a great improvement upon the latter. Of course, there are other ways of padding the knees to prevent injury, but pants padded at hips and knees is the most satisfactory, because the cords or straps that bind the pads to the knees, are so tightly tied that they may easily stop the circulation of the blood in the leg, and cause parts of the feet to freeze, or cramp.
A blow from the stick or the puck, is, perhaps, the most frequent cause of injury to a player, unless he be singularly unfortunate, but this never, or scarcely ever, amounts to anything serious. Our rules have been carried to such perfection, that, with rare exceptions, this accident of being struck with the stick occurs only in games between inexperienced men, because referees are so strict in enforcing the rule that forbids a man to raise his stick above the shoulder, that players who are up in the game, and respect the decision of the latter, are chary about erring in this manner.
Beginners are the most serious offenders against this rule, either because they are not sufficiently conversant with the game or because the referees of important matches err on the side of leniency.
Another danger to which a hockey player is exposed, is this, that during a game, after a man is overheated, he is liable to contract a severe cold if he is not careful to wrap himself up immediately on the call of time. As soon as any serious delay occurs the player should either repair to the dressing room or cover up well with a spare sweater or a gown.