Reflecting On Hockey as a Sport
This past weekend I had the opportunity to head down to Georgia and watch an ECHL pre-season game between the Gwinnett Gladiators and South Carolina Stingrays (SC won 5-2). The game was staged at the former practice facility of the Atlanta Thrashers, and gave me reason to pause and reflect on several things.
First, it was good to see youth practices going on before the game (and during on the other sheet in the building). There were little reminders of Atlanta’s NHL heritage everywhere: Thrashers stickers on helmets, Flames-bodied jerseys with Thrashers font for names and numbers, etc. Atlanta may have gone through two NHL teams but they do still have the Gladiators and a pretty good buzz around its hockey community. No, I did not see any Jets gear.
Second, it hit me after reading the rosters that I didn’t really know anyone playing on either side except from perhaps the occasional scouting report or article. While the world of hockey is a small one, I also realized that players who are at the ECHL or equivalent level don’t tend to stay in one place very long – or even have long careers. Only a select few players are able to put off getting that real, full-time job in favor of chasing a long career at that level. Most of the players are younger and hungry to try to advance to the next level where the wages are slightly better and you’re at least on the radar for a call-up. The average NHL career is said to be approximately five years – I’m willing to bet that a minor league career can be much shorter on average.
Finally, it reminded me that there are ways to support the sport of hockey itself. Perhaps you play in a local league. If not, you can check out local high school or college action. Knoxville, Memphis, Huntsville, Atlanta and other cities are a short drive away for pro hockey options too. And to that end, keep your eyes peeled for upcoming announcements on games that will be taking place at our very own Bridgestone Arena. The ice is in, and there will be hockey played on it. How’s that for a tease?
I know this isn’t easy hockey fans, but we can get through it together. Keep your browser pointed here as the Preds do everything they can to keep you entertained and informed throughout.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.